What is TMJ and TMJ Dysfunction?

TMJ dysfunction is a condition of the jaw joints (temporomandibular joints – TMJ) causing pain and discomfort with chewing and other jaw movements.

The temperomandibular joint, also known as the TMJ, is a small hinge joint connecting the mandible (jawbone) to the temporal part of the skull. You can find it if you press your finger lightly just in front of your ear, and then open and close your mouth. Your TMJ is used every time you chew, yawn, talk, swallow or even smile. With so much constant use, can you imagine what it would be like if the joint didn’t work properly?

TMJ Dysfunction – What Is It?

Dysfunction of the TMJ occurs when the articular disc which separates the condyle of the mandible from the skull is misplaced. It is usually accompanied by clicking, grinding or crunching noises and pain when you open and close your mouth, and these noises may indicate premature wearing of the joint surfaces.


Symptoms include all or some of the following:

  • Pain in the joint (or even in the ear) when eating or moving jaw
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Difficulty chewing or opening the mouth
  • Tenderness and swelling
  • Clicking, grinding or crunching noises
  • Headaches
  • Sinus problems
  • Hearing loss (rare)

What Causes TMJ Dysfunction?

Injury and trauma such as a blow to the jaw or ear, or neck injuries such as whiplash can cause TMJ dysfunction. Malocclusion, where the teeth don’t fit together properly, can cause the muscles of the jaw to compensate, creating muscle tension and many of the symptoms of TMJ dysfunction. Also, clenching your jaw, grinding your teeth or excessive chewing can put strain on the musculature of the mouth, causing TMJ symptoms.

What treatment do you offer to minimize TMJ pain?

First Dr. Heinrichs will examine the joint and jaw area.  Often the first step in TMJ therapy is fabricating a splint.  A splint is similar to a retainer but covers the chewing surfaces of your teeth.

This splint is worn at night.  The splint helps to open the joint slightly while you are sleeping. This reduces the stress and tends to relax the muscles which relieves the pain.

If further treatment is required then Botox® can be used

How does Botox® work to relieve the pain?

When injected into facial muscles afflicted with soreness and discomfort, BOTOX® relieves TMJ and jaw tension for many patients. The injections often eliminate headaches resulting from teeth grinding, and, in cases of severe stress, BOTOX® can even minimize lock jaw.

What’s my first step?

Contact our office if you’re experiencing TMJ pain or discomfort. Dr. Stan Heinrichs will do a complete assessment and give you a full evaluation including appropriate treatment recommendations to get you back smiling again.