Your Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)

Similar to the high temperature of a fever, discomfort or pain related to TMJ disorder signals an issue, but it does not point directly to the source. Common symptoms such as a headache, earache, or muscle soreness in the face could point to other outliers. Typically, individuals suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder pursue doctors other than their dentist to examine their ears, nose, throat, and eyes. However, Dr. Stewart explains how your jaw joint could be irritated because of an oral issue.

What Is The TMJ?

If you’ve eaten food or chewed a piece of gum recently, you have engaged your temporomandibular joint. The hinge that connects the bone just in front of your ear (temporal bone) and your lower jaw (mandible) is your TM joint. If you place two fingers in front of your ear while you open and close your mouth, you will feel the joint engaging and disengaging. 

Along with the joints and bones involved, there are muscles that facilitate movement. The temporalis muscle exists on the side of your face around your ear, and the masseter muscle connects the lower jaw to the cheek bone. This complex system of joint, bones, and muscles allow for chewing, speaking, and yawning. 

Causes And Symptoms

Diagnosing TMJ disorder proves difficult; however, some of the common causes are as follows: 

  • Direct trauma to the temporomandibular joint
  • Injury to the neck or head
  • Grinding (bruxism) or clenching of teeth
  • The presence of rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis in the joint
  • An abundance of stress, which causes the tightening of the facial muscles and jaw joint.

A wide spectrum of symptoms may occur due to some of the above causes, such as: 

  • Discomfort or tenderness in the jaw joint, face, neck, or ear region when speaking, eating, or yawning
  • Unable to open mouth to full width
  • “Lock” jaw
  • Uncomfortable bite, as if your lower and upper teeth don’t fit together properly
  • A popping or clicking noise when opening or closing your mouth
  • Swelling in the face
  • Dizziness, headache, or earache

As you begin to understand TMJ, take note that your teeth directly correlate with the positioning of your jaw joint. If a single tooth does not align correctly, it could ultimately result in causing TMJ.

Also, missing teeth could play a role in eventually causing discomfort in your jaw from an uneven bite. Bruxism (teeth grinding) engages your jaw bone and correlating muscles, usually involuntarily, while you sleep; it could lead to TMJ.


If you believe you’re experiencing TMJ, Dr. Stewart can examine your condition and may be able to determine the cause. He will suggest treatment options that involve the physical manipulation of your jaw, realignment of your teeth, or stress reduction to your joint.

No matter the cause, our team will assist you with discovering the best way to relieve your discomfort. 

About Dr. Stewart

If you believe you may be in the grips of TMJ disorder, or if you wish to seek relief for your chronic headaches and migraines, then visit us as soon as possible. James R. Stewart, Jr, DDS, PC serves patients of all ages from Livonia, Farmington Hills, Plymouth, Northville, Dearborn Heights, Garden City, and all surrounding communities. To schedule an appointment, call our office today at (734) 425-4400.