There is more that goes into having a reliable and successful dentistry practice than being able to give you a bright and beautiful smile. When you visit the dental office of Ana Brightleaf, DMD in Santa Monica, California, you can also feel comfortable knowing that you are visiting an experienced TMJ dentist. If you are someone who suffers from TMJ, know that you don’t have to suffer from the constant pain and discomfort that comes with it. Below you can learn more about this condition and find out answers to your most pressing questions about TMJ such as what TMJ is, what the symptoms are, if there is a cure and more.


What is TMJ?
When you hear people say they suffer from a ‘TMJ problem’ they are referring to their temporomandibular joint(TMJ). Problems with this joint are commonly referred to as a condition called TemporoMandibular Joint Disorder or TMD. The TMJ links the lower jaw, the mandible, to the temporal bone which is the bone at each side of the head. The joints are flexible, so that the jaw can move up and down and side to side, which allows you to talk, yawn and chew. Muscles which are attached to the jaw joint and surround it control its movement and position.

What are the symptoms of TMD?

The pain suffered with a TMD is sometimes caused by the misalignment of the bite. The TMJ is then subject to friction which causes pain. Most often the symptoms of TMJ include headaches, pain in the area of the jaw joint, pain and stiffness in the back, shoulders, and neck.  Those with TMJ may also experience limited movement of the jaw, earaches, ringing in the ears, clicking or popping of the jaw joint and dizziness.

How are TMJ symptoms eliminated?

Most often, patients are told to take over-the-counter medications, most of which are anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. Some of the symptoms can also be alleviated by not opening the jaw too wide and avoiding food that requires a lot of chewing such as chewing gum, hard candy or tough meats. Since there are many causes of TMD, doing a thorough evaluation and exam will help determine the best path for you to take to address your TMD. If the causes of the pain are more involved than simply removing the stimuli that cause the pain, it may require special x-rays such as CT scans or MRI’s to determine the actual underlying problem.

What causes TMD?

There are several things that can lead to someone having TMD. They are as follows:

  • Psychological Stress which can lead to clenching or grinding your teeth, which puts an incredible amount of pressure on the jaw joint.
  • Improper movement or wearing occurring in the soft cushion or the disc – the soft cushion between the ball and the socket of the jaw joint.
  • Arthritis
  • Other causes are injury and previous facial surgery.

Is there a cure for TMD?

If you have TMJ, chances are you will require a long-term management plan for best results. Since there is no cure for temporomandibular disorders and they tend to progressively get worse, the sooner you begin a treatment plan, the more likely it will be that you are able to lead a life that will not leave you in constant pain or discomfort. With the proper tools, skills and support, you can absolutely lead a normal life. Some of the common treatments include: custom-made removable appliances such as bite splint or nightguards, ultrasound, biofeedback or massage have also been found to be useful in certain situations.

Do you have to have surgery if you have TMD?

The vast majority of patients who are diagnosed with TMD do not need to have surgery to help to manage the problem. Even surgery is not a cure, and is simply used as an option to repair the joint. After this sort of surgery, a good amount of physical therapy is required if any sort of positive results are going to be experienced by the patient.