TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders are a family of problems related to you complex jaw joint. If you have had symptoms like pain or a "clicking" sound, you'll be glad to know that these problems are more easily diagnosed and treated than the past. These symptoms occur when the joints of the jaw and the chewing muscles do not work together correctly. The Temporomandibular Joint, which is the name for the right and left joint that connects your jaw to your skull. Since some types of TMJ problems can lead to more serious conditions, early diagnosis and treatment are important.

There are several options for treatment of TMJ disorders, and with time and treatment can become effective. Dr. Henderson can help you work towards a healthier and more functioning jaw.

Trouble with your jaw?

TMJ disorders develop for many reasons. You might clench or grind your teeth, tightening your jaw muscles and stressing your TM joint. You may have a damaged jaw joint from trauma or disease. Trauma can damage the joint directly or stretch or tear the muscle ligaments. As a result, the disk, which is made of cartilage and functions as the "cushion" of the jaw joint, can slip out of position. Whatever the cause, the results may include a misaligned bite, pain, clicking or grinding noise when you open your mouth or trouble opening your mouth wide.

Do you have TMJ disorder?

  • Are you aware of grinding or clenching your teeth?
  • Do you have frequent headaches or neck aches?
  • Do you wake up with sore, stiff muscles around your jaws?
  • Does the pain get worse when you clench your teeth?
  • Does stress make your clenching and pain worse?
  • Does your jaw click, pop, grate, catch or lock when you open your mouth?
  • Is it difficult or painful to open your mouth to eat or yawn?
  • Have you had problem with other joints (such as arthritis)?
  • Have you ever injured your neck, head or jaws?
  • Do you have teeth that no longer touch when you bite?
  • Do you teeth meet differently from time to time?
  • Are your teeth sensitive, loose, broken or worn?
  • Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear food?

The more times you answered "yes" the more likely it is that you have a TMJ disorder. Understanding TMJ disorders will also help you understand how they are treated.


There are various treatment options that Dr. Henderson can utilize to improve the functioning of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis of TMJ disorder Dr. Henderson will determine the proper course of treatment. It is important to note that treatment always works best with dual approach between the patient and the recommendation from Dr. Henderson's professional care.

The initial goals are to relieve joint pain and muscle spasm. This is usually accomplished with a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory or muscle relaxant. Steroids can be injected directly in the joints to reduce pain and inflammation. Self -care treatments can often be effective as well and include:

  • Resting your jaw
  • Keeping your teeth apart when you are not swallowing or eating
  • Eating soft foods
  • Practicing good posture
  • Exercising your jaw
  • Applying ice and heat

Stress management techniques such as biofeedback and physical therapy may also be recommended, as well as a temporary clear plastic appliance known as a "splint". A splint or night guard fits over your top or bottom teeth and helps keep your teeth apart, thereby relaxing the muscles and reducing pain. There are different types of appliances used for different purposes. A night guard helps you stop clenching or grinding your teeth and reduces muscle tension at night and helps to protect the cartilage and joint surfaces. An anterior positioning appliance moves your jaw forward, relives pressure on parts of your jaw and aids in disk repositioning. It may be worn 24 hours/day to help your jaw heal. An orthotic stabilization appliance is worn 24 or just at night to move your jaw into proper position. Appliances also help to protect from tooth wear.

What about bite correction or surgery?

If your TMJ disorder has caused problems with how your teeth fit together, you may need treatment such as bite adjustment (equilibration), orthodontics with or without jaw reconstruction, or restorative dental work. Surgical options such as arthroscopy and open joint repair restructuring are sometimes needed but are reserved for severe cases. Dr. Henderson will not consider TMJ surgery unless the jaw can’t open, is dislocated and non-reducible, has severe degeneration, or the patient has undergone appliance treatment unsuccessfully.