TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) Pain

​The temporomandibular joint is the joint that connects your jaws to the temporal bones of the skull, i.e. the skull bones which are in front of each ear. This joint allows you to chew, yawn, talk, and move the jaw from side to side or up and down. Problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) are known as temporomandibular joint disorder, though some may incorrectly call the disorder as just TMJ.

TMJ disorder can lead to pain in your jaws. There is no definite cause of TMJ pain, and it can occur due to various factors, such as a jaw injury, arthritis, poor posture, stress, teeth grinding, gum chewing or misalignment of the teeth or jaws. TMJ disorder can also cause nerve inflammation and Eustachian tube disorders. 

The main symptom of TMJ disorder is pain in the temporomandibular joint. The pain may also be felt in the face, eye, forehead, ear, or neck. The general symptoms you may experience include:

  • Radiating pain in the jaw, face or neck.

  • Stiff jaw muscles.

  • Difficulty in moving the jaw if it becomes locked.

  • Problems with biting. 

  • Clicking and popping sounds from the jaw.

  • Ear aches.

  • Clenching and grinding of the teeth.

  • Misalignment in the way upper and lower jaws meet.

  • Grating sensation on opening the mouth and chewing.​

​If you face tenderness and pain in your jaw over a prolonged period of time, you must see your doctor. Pain when chewing and biting which interferes with normal eating should also be evaluated by an ENT (Eye-Nose-Throat) specialist or a dentist, depending on your symptoms. You must also get yourself assessed by a doctor working for the Eye and ENT Service Line or the Teeth and Skin Service Line of The Aga Khan University Hospital if you have suffered an injury to your face or jaw, followed by temporomandibular joint pain.​

​Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.​

Your doctor will asks questions about your general health, medical history, and questions about your symptoms such as how long you have been having them and specific features of jaw pain, such as whether it is radiating to the back of the ears and whether chewing and biting is painful.

A physical examination of the jaws will also be conducted. The doctor will particularly look for indication of a locked jaw, any clicking, popping or grating sounds, as well as any tenderness in the area. The dentist or doctor will also look for signs of tooth decay which could be contributing to pain in the jaws.

X-rays and imaging tests such as CT (Computerized Tomography) scan and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) will also be conducted to view the temporomandibular joints and identify any misalignment or damage. 

​Certain at-home measures can be useful in providing relief from symptoms of TMJ disorder. For instance, using hot and cold compress to the side of the face, exercises to stretch and massage the jaw muscles, avoiding stress-induced habits such as clenching jaws or chewing pencils, and avoiding excessive chewing of hard or chewy foods can help alleviate painful TMJ disorder symptoms. 

Your doctor or dentist may also prescribe medicine or pain relievers and suggest relaxation techniques and stress management. In some cases posture training and physical therapy are also useful in managing TMJ pain. 

If these methods do not prove useful, other treatment options include:

  • Dental splints that resemble mouth guards to prevent grinding of teeth.

  • Muscle relaxants.

  • Sedative in cases where you may clench teeth unknowingly at night, aggravating TMJ pain.

  • Corticosteroid injections may prove useful for some people.

  • Using a procedure called arthrocentesis to insert needles to remove debris and inflammatory by-product from the joint.

  • Counselling and therapy to help you manage your symptoms better.

​In some cases, surgery may be recommended if the above treatment options are not useful to repair your temporomandibular joint. However, this should be avoided. 

​Our team of highly qualified otolaryngologists (ENT specialists) and dentists at The Aga Khan University Hospital are specially trained in the treatment of disorders of the ear, nose, throat and jaws. Discuss your concerns with the treatment option prescribed for you in detail with your doctor before you start a treatment plan.​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage​

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.