The Temporomandibular Joint is a joint connecting the mandible (jaw) to the skull. A healthy TMJ allows us to open and close our jaws comfortably. However when there are problems with this joint, a host of symptoms may appear. TMJ disorders are affected by many of the same conditions and diseases that other joints in our body suffer.

  1. (TMD); Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJD), are very general terms referring to a group of problems that effect the jaw joint and the muscles that control the jaw, and often involve muscles of the neck and shoulders.  Symptoms can include headache, tooth grinding and clenching, limited jaw movement, clicking and locking of the jaw. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is recommended that you see a dentist with specific knowledge of Orofacial Pain and TMD. The dentist can then evaluate and make a specific diagnosis. The range of treatments can vary widely, from a short course of medications, exercises and mouth appliances to complex surgery.
  2. Many people experience clicking and other sounds in many joints in the body. The TMJ (Jaw Joint) is no exception. If the click is associated with pain, difficulty in chewing, intermittent limited movement or otherwise unexplained head and neck pain a professional evaluation is recommended.
  3. Most general dentists are not trained to evaluate and treat temporomandibular disorders. If you need an evaluation, you should seek a dentist who is trained in the field. Inquire about their professional affiliations, such as Academy of Orofacial Pain or American Academy of Craniofacial Pain, board certifications and the number of TMJ patients treated in their practice.
  4. Approaches for the treatment of temporomandibular disorders (TMJ) vary dramatically depending on the profession (eg. Dentist, Osteopath, Physical Therapist, Chiropractor), training and professional affiliations. In general, be wary of approaches that suggest surgery, orthodontics or extensive dental reconstruction especially as an early intervention.  Conservative treatments involving medication, appliances not aimed at shifting the bite, and physical therapy, are often effective and should certainly be tried before surgery.
  5. Insurance coverage for TMJ problems, if covered at all, is generally through medical insurance. You need to check with your plan, as some specifically exclude coverage and others limit it. In any event, expect the insurance company to ask the professional for more information and expect processing the claim to take more time than routine medical care.

Dr. Andrew Kaplan is a recognized expert in TMJ and Orofacial pain. He has written extensively, including a textbook entitled “Temporomandibular Disorders, Diagnosis and Treatment”  and two other books on TMJ and Pain for the public.  He was the head of Mount Sinai’s TMJ/Facial Pain Clinic for 15 years.