Pittsburgh Dental Sleep Medicine

Sleep Apnea and Snoring Specialist located in Wexford, PA, McMurray, PA, & Monroeville, PA

Temporomandibular joint disorder, also referred to as TMJ or TMD, is a condition that can cause significant pain in your jaw. Men and women in and around the communities of Latrobe, McMurray, Monroeville, and Wexford, Pennsylvania, have a valuable resource in the team at Pittsburgh Dental Sleep Medicine. If you experience unusual jaw changes or pain, call the McMurray office or schedule an appointment online at your earliest convenience.


What is TMJ/TMD?

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ/TMD) is a condition that affects the joint connecting your lower jaw to your skull. You have two temporomandibular joints, one on each side of your face. This joint is essential in speaking, eating, and yawning. 

Your temporomandibular joint consists of bones, muscles, blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. Problems with these components can create issues with proper joint function. 

How do I know if I have TMJ?

Symptoms of TMJ can occur on one or both sides of your face. They can be temporary or can last for months or even years. Some men and women experience only mild symptoms, while others find their symptoms to be unbearable. 

Some things to keep an eye out for include:

  • Pain or sensation of tenderness in your jaw, face, ear, neck, or shoulder
  • Increase in discomfort when you speak, chew, or yawn
  • Inability to open your mouth wide or move your jaw from side to side
  • Tired feeling in your face
  • Difficulty chewing or a sudden change in your bite
  • Swelling on one side of your face
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Popping, clicking, or grating sounds when you open or close your mouth
  • Jaws that become stuck in an open or closed position

Don’t ignore changes or discomfort in your jaw. These are joints that play essential roles in daily life, and TMJ can disrupt your normal routines.

What causes TMJ or TMD?

Researchers are not sure of the exact cause of TMJ or TMD, but it’s believed to stem from problems with the muscles or other components of these joints. A traumatic injury can lead to temporomandibular joint disorder, as can arthritis. 

Additional causal factors include high levels of stress, grinding or clenching your teeth, and movement of the disc that cushions the connection of the ball and socket of the joint. 

Sleep apnea or other breathing disorders can contribute to TMJ by causing you to move your jaw forward when breathing is interrupted during sleep. This motion might help open your airway, but it also causes your teeth to grind, placing undue stress on your temporomandibular joint.

How is temporomandibular joint disorder treated?

The first step is a thorough diagnostic exam. Pittsburgh Dental Sleep Medicine uses a state-of-the-art oral scanner to collect digital imaging of your teeth and bite, and X-ray imaging to visualize the bones of your temporomandibular joints, avoiding the goopy tray-based impressions of decades past. An in-depth discussion of your symptoms, general health history, and lifestyle habits follows. 

This information helps your specialist craft a customized treatment plan. In some cases, modifying behaviors can yield impressive improvements. Finding ways to manage stress, changing your diet, incorporating jaw stretches, or even changing the way you hold your phone can all help. 

A therapy called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) can be a wonderful option for treating TMJ. This approach uses electrodes to deliver electrical current to the muscles in your jaw, stimulating them, and releasing tension that can contribute to TMJ.

Joint injections, ultrasound therapy, and medications can also help. In cases where posture is contributing to the problem, your specialist at Pittsburgh Dental Sleep Medicine can collaborate with a chiropractor to help you find lasting relief.    

An oral orthotic appliance can also go a long way toward treating temporomandibular joint disorder. These devices are worn in your mouth and prevent you from clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth. Your treatment plan might advise you wear your oral orthotic device only while asleep, only during waking hours, or a combination of both. 

Pittsburgh Dental Sleep Medicine offers a variety of dental orthotic appliances that are comfortable to wear and allow for a custom fit. These devices not only prevent grinding, but they also help relax tight jaw muscles, improve the alignment of your head with your neck and shoulders, and correct misalignment between your upper and lower jaws. 

Learn more about treatment options for TMJ/TMD during your one-on-one consultation. You can schedule at the McMurray office in moments online or over the phone, so don’t delay.