What is TMJ and How Can Dental Treatments Help?

If you’ve ever heard that tell-tale clicking in your jaw and felt your jaw lock, you have probably asked yourself, “Do I have TMJ?” Researchers from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimate that nearly 10 million Americans suffer from some degree of TMJ disorders.

What is TMJ?

The temporomandibular joint, better known as TMJ, is a joint that links your skull with your jawbone. This joint works in concert with your muscles and discs and bones so that you can eat, chew, speak, or even yawn. A TMJ disorder occurs when this system does not function properly.

Causes and Risk Factors for TMJ Disorders

Not every case of TMJ has a clear cause, but TMJ disorders can occur under the following circumstances:

  • Arthritis damages the cartilage
  • Injury to the joint (such as the blow to the face)
  • The disk becomes misaligned

You may be at an elevated risk for developing TMJ if you experience the following:

  • Arthritis
  • Injury to the jaw
  • Grinding teeth at night: a mouth guard at night may be advisable in this instance
  • Any disease that causes joint issues

Symptoms of TMJ

Your dentist may diagnose you by examining your jaw and your list of symptoms. Common symptoms include:

  • Aching pain throughout the face including the jaw
  • Localized pain around the ear area
  • Tender jaw
  • Difficulty opening and closing your mouth: the joint feels “locked up.”
  • Difficulty chewing: chewing can also be painful
  • Clicking noises that occur with any of the above symptoms: clicking noises alone do not indicate TMJ


While some patients may temporarily relieve pain with OTC pain relievers, your dentist may suggest other methods to help treat this condition. After an evaluation, your dentist will be able to create a treatment plan for you. Treatment options include pain medications, stabilizers, and surgery.


  • Mouth guards: Also known as occlusal appliances, mouth guards help patients who experience pain in their jaw.

Surgical options

  • Arthrocentesis: This procedure cleans out the joint by removing debris through irrigation via needles.
  • TMJ arthroscopy: This is a surgical procedure that requires the placement of a tube into the joint. The arthroscope is placed into the tube, and then the surgery commences.
  • Modified condylotomy: Unlike the TMJ arthroscopy, the modified condylotomy is surgery on the mandible, not the joint. Your dentist may suggest this surgery particularly if you experience a “locked” jaw.
  • Arthrotomy: Better known as open joint surgery, the arthrotomy is used when the joint needs to be repaired – or even replaced!

Remember that only a qualified dentist specialized in TMJ should treat TMJ or recommend the appropriate course of action.

Before You See the Dentist

While you wait for your appointment, there are a few things you can do to make yourself more comfortable. Avoid irritating the jaw; choose soft or liquid foods like soup or shakes. If necessary, cut your food into smaller bites. Avoid sticky foods and candies, especially toffees and chewing gum. If pain intensifies, use hot and cold therapies to manage pain.

Finding Treatment For TMJ Disorders in Indianapolis

Dr. Falender and our team at Indianapolis Oral Surgery & Dental Implant Center are experts in TMJ treatment. We are here to answer any questions or concerns regarding a TMJ specialist, or TMJ treatment in Indianapolis, and surrounding areas. Contact Indianapolis Oral Surgery & Dental Implant Center to schedule a consultation today. Call now (317) 900-4535.

About Your Indianapolis, IN Oral Surgeon

We look forward to providing families with exceptional care and advanced treatment options. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Falender contact our Indianapolis, IN, dental office today by calling (317) 900-4535. Our office at 1320 N. Post Rd, Indianapolis, IN 46219 welcomes patients in and around Indianapolis, IN, including Fishers, Lawrence, Greenfield, and the surrounding Southern Indianapolis communities.

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