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Understanding TMJ Disorders/TMD

woman holding an ice pack to her cheek

According to the American Academy of Orofacial Pain, TMD is defined as a group of disorders involving the masticatory muscles, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and associated structures. As per Dr. Jasjot Sahni, DDS, FAAOP, Clinical Assistant Professor at the Oral Medicine and Facial Pain Clinic at UIC College of Dentistry, roughly 10 million people in the United States suffer from at least one TMJ disorder. There are multiple factors that can cause TMD such as stress, trauma, clenching or grinding habits, chewing hard foods.

Signs and symptoms could include pain around the jawline and/or temple, neck, head region. The pain may be exacerbated by chewing hard or tough foods, clicking or popping sounds or crunchy sounds when opening your mouth, soreness in muscles on waking up in the morning, locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth, headaches or ear pain or neck pain. Sometimes the bite may feel different despite not having had dental treatment. This may be transient or progressive.

TMD diagnosis is complex to diagnose and so is the management. Diagnosis is mainly based on history taking, comprehensive examination of the joints, muscles and review of any pertinent information. Panoramic or advanced imaging might be indicated, as per the case.

Roughly 10 million people in the United States suffer from at least one TMJ disorder.

Dr. Jasjot Sahni, DDS FAAOP, Clinical Assistant Professor, Oral Medicine & Facial Pain at UIC COD

Management starts with identification of the cause or the etiology behind the TMD and is mainly based on conservative, evidence based techniques. Our clinicians use reversible, conservative and holistic treatment methodologies in the treatment planning of these cases. Conservative and minimally invasive techniques are recommended as a first line treatment, before surgical options or more invasive modalities are utilized. If you are experiencing symptoms such as pain in head, face, oral and neck regions and temporomandibular disorder (TMD, jaw pain), sleep disorders related to breathing problems or similar concerns, our oral medicine & facial pain specialists may be able to help.

The College of Dentistry offers services in comprehensive, urgent, and specialty care. If you’d like to schedule an appointment with our Oral Medicine & Facial Pain clinic, please visit: or call (312) 355-1222.


Orofacial Pain: Guidelines for Assessment, Diagnosis, and Management (AAOP The American Academy of Orofacial Pain), 6th Edition 6th Edition