What is TMJ?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the lower jaw to the skull and allows the jaw to move so you can chew, and talk comfortably. The TMJ is one of the most used joints in the body. Issues like jaw clenching or teeth grinding caused by stress or anxiety, facial trauma, or jaw deformities can contribute to a variety of disorders in the TMJ. TMJ disorders can cause pain in the head, neck, jaw, or face, and can make it difficult to talk or chew. TMJ disorders can also affect children of any age, but are more common in teens, especially girls.

Signs and Symptoms
  • Pain in the facial muscles, jaw joints, near the ear.
  • Pain when talking, chewing, or yawning.
  • Painful popping or clicking sounds when opening or closing the mouth.
  • Some types of headaches.
  • Limited mouth opening.
  • Locking of the jaw, either open or closed.

How are TMJ disorders treated?

Multiple treatment options are available. The treatment plan your surgeon recommends will depend on your child’s symptoms. This can range from home care, physical therapy, and medications to joint washouts that are minimally invasive all the way to open joint surgery with total joint replacement. At CHKD, we consider you and your child integral parts of the care team, and we will work together to customize a course of treatment for your child. 

Surgery options used to treat severe TMJ disorders include: 

  • Arthrocentesis — A washout of the joint is performed with small needles.  This can help with pain and inflammation and break up scar tissue that might be limiting movement of the joint.
  • Arthroscopy — A small camera is inserted into the joint to see the inside of the joint.  This can help to make a diagnosis and perform minimally invasive procedure.   
  • Open joint surgery — This involves an incision on the side of the face.  The joint is opened and parts of the joint may be removed or reshaped. 
  • Joint replacement — A procedure to replace or reconstruct a damaged TMJ.
  • Orthognathic (jaw) surgery — Performed for individuals who have had major TMJ problems that have led to a significant misalignment of the bite. 

Learn more about CHKD’s Plastic and Oral Maxillofacial program.