Pain, particularly in the chewing muscles and/or jaw joint
Radiating pain in the face, jaw, or neck
Jaw muscle stiffness
Limited movement or locking of the jaw
Painful clicking, popping, or grating in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth;
A change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together
There is no standard test for diagnosing TMJ. Currently, healthcare providers note the patient's symptoms, take a detailed medical and dental history, and examine problem areas, including the head, neck, face, and jaw. Imaging studies may also be recommended.
Facial pain can indicate many other conditions, such as sinus or ear infections, various types of headaches, and facial-nerve pain. Ruling out these problems first helps to identify TMJ disorders.
Experts strongly recommend using the most conservative, reversible of treatments. These do not invade the tissues of the face, jaw, or joint, or involve surgery. Also, they do not cause permanent changes in the structure or position of the jaw or teeth. Even when TMJ disorders persist, most patients still do not need aggressive treatment.
Short-term use of over-the-counter pain medicines or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, may provide temporary relief. When necessary, stronger pain or anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, or antidepressants may be prescribed.
Stabilization splints or plastic bite guards that fit over the upper or lower teeth are the most widely used treatment for TMJ. Studies of their effectiveness at relieving pain are inconclusive. Splints should be used only for a short time and not cause permanent changes in the bite. If splints cause or increase pain, stop using them and see your healthcare provider.