TMJ/TMD Jaw & Head Pain

TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, is the joint that connects your jawbone to your skull. It allows you to open and close your mouth, chew, speak, and perform other essential functions. TMJ disorder (TMD) refers to a condition that affects this joint and surrounding muscles. 

When someone suffers from TMJ/TMD jaw and head pain, it can be incredibly uncomfortable and debilitating. The symptoms can vary from person to person but commonly include jaw pain or stiffness, headaches or migraines, facial pain or swelling, difficulty opening or closing the mouth fully, and clicking or popping sounds when moving the jaw. 

The exact cause of TMJ/TMD is often unclear, but there are known, well-established factors that can cause and/or contribute to its development. These may include arthritis in the joint itself, injury, or trauma to the jaw area, such as the whiplash effect during an accident. Oral habits such as Teeth grinding (bruxism) and stress-induced clenching of teeth are also common culprits for TMD. How the patient handles stress and how activated and energized his stress system is are what play a major role in bringing on acute symptoms. I call these oral habits "nice person" habits because when something upsetting happens, only this person is suffering because of his quiet and unseen oral habit.

Note: further down the page, you will see my way of treating most of my TMJ patients with an 85% success rate.

Treatment options for TMJ/TMD aim at reducing pain and improving functionality. Depending on the severity of symptoms, different approaches might be suggested by healthcare professionals, including lifestyle modifications like avoiding hard foods that strain the joints, using hot/cold packs, practicing relaxation techniques, physical therapy exercises targeting neck and head muscles, and wearing a dental splint/nightguard at night to prevent teeth grinding/clenching. 

In more severe cases where conservative treatments don't provide relief, surgical intervention may be considered as a last resort option, which could involve procedures like arthrocentesis (fluid removal from the joint) or open-joint surgery in extreme cases. 

If you suspect you have TMJ/TMD-related issues, it is important not only to seek medical advice but also to consult with experienced professionals such as Dr. Hatland, who specializes in treating these conditions. He will guide you towards appropriate treatment methods tailored specifically for your needs, giving due consideration to underlying causes contributing towards your discomfort while ensuring your overall oral health. 

Symptoms of TMJ/TMD

Symptoms of TMJ/TMD can vary from person to person, but they often involve pain and discomfort in the jaw and head area. 

  • One common symptom is jaw pain or stiffness, which may make it difficult to open or close your mouth fully. You might also experience clicking, popping, or grating sounds when you move your jaw.
  • 90% of all headaches are caused by overactive jaw muscles related to the TMJ/TMD syndrome. These headaches can range from mild tension headaches to more severe migraines. The pain may be localized in the temples, behind the eyes, or at the base of the skull.
  • Some individuals with TMJ/TMD may experience facial pain or tenderness as well. This can occur in areas such as the cheeks, temples, or even around the ears. It may worsen when chewing or speaking. 
  • Other symptoms include earaches, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), dizziness or vertigo episodes, and difficulty with biting or chewing food properly. Some people also report a feeling of "locked" jaws where they struggle to open their mouths fully. 

It's important to note that these symptoms can overlap with other conditions. Therefore, if you're experiencing any of these signs consistently for an extended period without relief from self-care measures like applying heat/cold packs and avoiding hard/chewy foods, then consult with Dr.Hatland, who specializes in treating TMJ/TMD disorders for proper diagnosis and treatment options tailored specifically for you. 

Causes of TMJ/TMD

Understanding the causes of TMJ/TMD is crucial for effective treatment and long-term relief. While there isn't always a clear-cut answer, several factors can contribute to the development of this condition. 

  • One possible cause is jaw misalignment or an abnormal bite. When your teeth don't fit together properly, it puts stress on your jaw joint and surrounding muscles, leading to pain and discomfort. 
  • Another potential cause is excessive teeth grinding or clenching, known as bruxism. This habit puts significant pressure on the jaw joint and can result in inflammation and damage over time. 
  • Injuries to the head or neck region can also trigger TMJ/TMD symptoms. Trauma from accidents like car crashes or sports injuries may disrupt the delicate balance of your temporomandibular joint. 
  • Stress is often cited as a contributing factor as well. Tension in the facial muscles caused by anxiety or emotional distress can exacerbate symptoms and make them more severe. 
  • Additionally, certain medical conditions such as arthritis, hormonal imbalances, or connective tissue disorders may increase your risk of developing TMJ/TMD. 

It's important to note that each patient's experience with TMJ/TMD is unique, so identifying specific causes for each individual case can be challenging. Seeking professional evaluation from a qualified healthcare provider like Dr. Hatland will help determine the underlying factors contributing to your jaw pain and develop an appropriate treatment plan tailored to your needs. 

Treatment Options For TMJ/TMD 

Basic treatment protocol for my TMJ/TMD patients:

  • The lower occlusal appliance: This custom-made device is worn over the lower posterior teeth to reduce grinding and clenching, which greatly aggravates TMJ/TMD symptoms. After very careful adjusting, the appliance will give the patient a perfectly balanced bite; the tendency to clench, grind, or brux dramatically diminishes to asymptomatic levels. The jaw muscles begin relaxing many times during the treatment appointment.
  • The appliance only needs to be worn at night, though it can be worn during the day, and you can talk with it. (This process continues if the appliance is worn consistently at night. It's also important that the patient refrain from using stimulants during this period of treatment time. Usually, all pain will stop within 2 to 3 days as the muscles relax. When the muscles stay relaxed, normal and atraumatic muscle function returns. 
  • Physical Therapy: Techniques like ultrasound, heat/cold therapy, SCENAR treatments, acupuncture techniques, gentle exercises, and stretching can improve jaw mobility and reduce muscle tension in the area affected by TMJ/TMD. 
  • Bite Adjustments: If your bite is misaligned or contributing to your TMJ/TMD symptoms, our dentist may recommend adjusting your bite through orthodontic treatment or dental restorations such as crowns or veneers. 
  • Stress Management Techniques: Since stress often worsens TMD symptoms, learning relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or seeking therapy can be beneficial.

Remember that every individual's situation is unique when it comes to treating TMJ/TMD; it's essential to consult a qualified healthcare professional who specializes in temporomandibular disorders, like Dr. Hatland, for personalized advice on suitable treatment options tailored specifically for you. 


TMJ/TMD jaw and head pain can have a significant impact on your daily life. It is important to recognize the symptoms and seek treatment as early as possible to prevent any further complications. 

Remember, if you are experiencing persistent jaw or head pain, don't hesitate to consult with Dr. Hatland, an experienced and reliable dentist who specializes in treating TMJ/TMD. With his expertise and knowledge, he will be able to diagnose the underlying cause of your pain and create a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. 

Whether it's through conservative measures such as lifestyle changes, exercises, splints, or more advanced treatments like dental procedures, Dr. Hatland will guide you every step towards relief from TMJ/TMD pain. 

Don't let jaw and head pain hold you back from enjoying life to the fullest. Take control of your oral health today by seeking professional help from Dr. Hatland! Visit our dental offices in Indianapolis, IN, or Lincolnwood, IL, to learn more.


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