Is TMJ a Medical or Dental Problem?

TMJ Dentist Marietta, OH

Patients who experience clicking or popping in the temporomandibular joint may have developed the combined jaw joint and facial muscle dysfunction referred to as TMJ disorder. Patients who are female, deal with stress or anxiety, or have other health conditions that affect the muscles and joints may warrant an evaluation. Because TMJ can be a medical problem, a dental problem, or a combination of both, it is beneficial to understand what is causing the patient’s disorder before creating a treatment plan.

TMJ as a medical problem

Patients who develop TMJ may wonder which provider to contact for treatment. The condition can be a medical problem due to certain diseases that cause pain in the facial area or inflammation in the jaw joint itself.

Medical conditions that cause TMJ pain

Fibromyalgia is a top contender for medically related TMJ pain. This condition causes widespread pain throughout the body as well as at several “trigger points,” one of which is commonly located in the jaw or upper neck area. Fibromyalgia can cause such symptoms in patients without preexisting dental conditions.

Rheumatoid arthritis and other types of inflammatory arthritis can affect the temporomandibular joint directly. These patients, like individuals with fibromyalgia, may not have any problems with the teeth or mouth; the jaw joint could simply be swollen as a result of an autoimmune attack on its lining.

Medical treatments for TMJ pain

Medically based treatments often begin conservatively and can be prescribed by a medical doctor or a dentist. For joint inflammation, a provider may prescribe pain medication as a first-line treatment. For conditions like fibromyalgia that sometimes respond to antidepressants, massage therapy, and bodily relaxation, alternative treatments may be combined with medications for holistic TMJ relief.

TMJ as a dental problem

Dentists know a great deal about TMJ even if the underlying condition causing it is not related to the mouth or teeth. If the patient’s condition originates from a dental concern, a dentist is the right provider to both diagnose it and form a treatment plan for the patient.

Dental problems that cause TMJ pain

A dentist may perform X-rays or a CT scan of the patient’s mouth and jaw structures to determine the cause of the pain. Bruxism can cause muscular pain in the TMJ area, but thankfully, this painful muscular tension does not result in the joint being damaged. If the patient has undergone substandard dental work in the past, such as ill-fitting braces, this can also result in discomfort in the jaw joint.

Dental treatments for TMJ pain

Occlusal splints, or nightguards that prevent the teeth from locking together, are a first-line treatment for TMJ that does not have a disease origin. If the patient bruxes due to stress, a nightguard may help. Medication such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medicine, and NSAIDS may be prescribed on a case-by-case basis.


The medical and dental treatments of TMJ often overlap. Because treatment is a collaborative process between the dentist and the patient, it is recommended to find a practitioner who is detail-oriented and knowledgeable about different subtypes of temporomandibular joint dysfunction.

Request an appointment here: or call McCarthy Dentistry at (740) 546-5178 for an appointment in our Marietta office.

Check out what others are saying about our dental services on Yelp: TMJ Dentist in Marietta, OH.

Recent Posts

Why TMJ Disorder Causes Discomfort And Tension

TMJ disorder affects millions of Americans each year. The good news is the condition can be treated through non-invasive measures when corrected before the discomfort and tension begin to worsen. This review discusses TMJ disorder and looks at the symptoms of discomfort and tension, focusing on why they occur and how they can be relieved.TMJ…

Signs That You Need To Undergo TMJ Treatment

The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, allows for the movement required for talking and chewing. The joint connects your mandible or lower jaw and your temporal bone, which is located on the side of your skull. The TMJ joint is considered to be one of the most complex joints in the body since it controls the…

Ask A Dentist: What Is The Right Sleeping Position For TMJ?

Temporomandibular joint syndrome, commonly referred to as TMJ, is a pain in the jaw joint that can be caused by joint abnormalities, arthritis or other medical conditions. Common treatments include dietary changes, stress reduction, muscle stretching, physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications. Changing sleep positions can also reduce symptoms in some cases. Strain on the head, neck,…

How Oral Surgery Can Help Replace Missing Teeth

The thought of an oral surgery procedure as a part of the teeth replacement process can be intimidating for many. You can calm any anxieties that you may have about the missing teeth replacement process and the oral surgery procedures that may be required by learning more and adequately preparing ahead of time.Removable dentures or…

Recent Posts

How Sleep Medicine Can Help With Chronic Headaches

How Sleep Medicine Can Help With Chronic Headaches

Sleep medicine is an important discipline that focuses on the treatment of sleep disorders. Migraine and sleep disorders or disturbances are complex conditions. They are often intertwined. It is not uncommon for one to trigger the other. If you are dealing with chronic headaches, you should see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.Sleep disorders are…

Here Are   Facts About Wisdom Tooth Extraction

Here Are 4 Facts About Wisdom Tooth Extraction

Thinking you may need a wisdom tooth extraction? Read on to learn more about this common dental procedure. Wisdom teeth are the molars at the rear of the mouth and typically the last ones to erupt. The wisdom teeth come in around the late adolescent years or early adulthood, but the time differs from patient…