Walton & Maready Orthodontics

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ or TMD)

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ or TMD)

The temporomandibular joint (jaw joint) is the hinge-like joint located on either side of your face that connects your jaw bone (mandible) to your skull. As much as 12% of the population suffers from disorders of this joint. Unlike other chronic pain conditions, TMJ affects young people more than older adults. It also affects women two times as much as men. Disorders of this joint can be very painful. Our orthodontists in Cary and Raleigh, North Carolina, can help treat your TMJ.


The cause of TMJ is difficult to diagnose. Much like other joints, there is a small disc between the mandible and the skull that allows the joint to operate smoothly while cartilage covers the parts of the bones that interact with each other. Occasionally, something mechanical goes awry with the joint. This can include:

  • the disc moving out of alignment or eroding
  • arthritis damaging the disc’s cartilage
  • an injury damaging the joint or bones


Genetics can also play a role in whether or not you will have TMJ. Most commonly, though, clenching or grinding your teeth causes TMJ pain. Many people don’t even realize they are clenching or grinding their teeth, and it often happens in their sleep! Connective tissue diseases, like lupus, can also affect the temporomandibular joint by causing the immune system to attack its own cells and tissues.

Walton & Maready Orthodontics

Symptoms of TMJ or TMD

The symptoms of TMJ affect each patient differently and can include:
  • difficulty opening or closing your mouth
  • difficulty or pain with chewing
  • aching facial pain
  • aching in or around your ear
  • pain or tenderness in the joint itself
  • clicking or grating sound when you open your mouth


There is not a lot of scientific evidence showing which treatments for TMJ are most effective, and most often, your TMJ pain will go away on its own with little or no treatment. The National Institute of Health advises a “less is often best” approach.

Here a few recommended at-home remedies that may help you find relief:

  • Eat soft foods.
  • Use ice packs on the affected area.
  • Avoid extreme jaw movements like yawning and chewing gum.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever or anti-inflammatory medicine.
  • Perform jaw-strengthening exercises.
  • Practice relaxation techniques.

However, if you suffer from TMJ pain frequently or the above recommendations fail to relieve your symptoms, our orthodontists in Cary and Raleigh can tell you if orthodontic treatment could help you find relief.

Orthodontic treatment can be used to realign the teeth so they meet together properly (also called your bite). When your bite is in alignment, the temporomandibular joint is not stressed when you clench or grind your teeth.

An orthodontist can also fashion a night guard or bite plate that you can wear to decrease the effects of clenching and grinding. This is a relatively inexpensive appliance that offers relief by allowing your teeth to glide smoothly over each other when grinding and acts like a shock absorber when you clench.

This custom appliance is made by taking a mold of your teeth and fashioning it from an acrylic-like substance over the model. You wear the appliance as much as needed to offer relief. Clenching and grinding can also cause recession of the gingival tissue surrounding the teeth. A night guard or bite guard can limit the amount of recession.

If you are one of the many people who suffer from temporomandibular joint disorder, call our orthodontist in Raleigh, NC, to find relief today!

Schedule a free initial visit with us today.

Walton & Maready Orthodontics is focused solely on providing you with the best, most up-to-date orthodontic treatment available. Our passion lies in providing personalized orthodontic care that fits your lifestyle and is affordable while exceeding your expectations. Call today for your free initial consultation.