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Is temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMJ) serious?

Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMJ) causes mild to severe pain in the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. With TMJ, you may feel pain across the jaw, ear, or neck; stiffness in your jaw muscles when you open your mouth; popping in your jaw; and difficulty moving the jaw. 

Pain from TMJ may go away with little or no treatment. Home treatment may include eating soft foods and applying ice packs (in a towel) or a warm, moist towel to the painful jaw. You should avoid chewy candy, sticky foods, and chewing gum.

Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications for TMJ. Your dentist may fit you with a splint (biteplate, night guard) that you wear at night to help alleviate jaw tension. This will help relieve the pain and stiffness. In some cases, your doctor may give you an injection to ease the pain and stiffness. Or less commonly, arthroscopic surgery may be needed, depending on the severity of the problem.

High stress can result in chronic muscle tension in the jaw. So talk to your doctor about ways to control your stress response, if that is a problem.
 

TMJ is generally not serious. For most people, the pain and other symptoms associated with TMJ can be resolved by following a prescribed treatment plan. For others, TMJ resolves on its own and without the need to visit a doctor. However, when the underlying cause is physical (like a damaged jaw joint or misaligned bite), dental procedures and even surgery may be called for.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.