Temporomandibular disorder

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  • TMJ refers to temporomandibular joint dysfunction, a symptom complex caused by pain/dysfunction of the muscles of mastication
  • Associated with bruxism, degenerative joint disease, trauma, and anatomical issues of the TMJ joint

Clinical Features

  • Jaw pain
  • Popping/clicking of jaw
  • Ear pain/popping
  • Headache
  • Intermittent locking of the jaw

Differential Diagnosis

Jaw Spasms


  • Clinical diagnosis
  • Research Diagnostic Criteria (RDC/TMD) is gold standard for diagnosis/research purposes
    • Pain in muscles of mastication, the TMJ, or the periauricular area, usually worsened by manipulation or function
    • Asymmetric mandibular movement with or without clicking
    • Limitation of mandibular movements
    • Pain present for minimum of 3 months
  • Consider imaging if history of trauma/facial trauma


  • Analgesia
    • NSAIDs are first line, consider very short term opioids if not well controlled
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Soft-food diet during acute episodes
  • Moist heat, massage of masticatory muscles
  • Occlusal splints/bite blocks at night for bruxism
Occlusal splint


  • Discharge
  • Follow up with dentist/primary care provider
  • 50% of patients have improvement in 1 year, 85% in 3 years[2]

See Also

External Links


  1. Tsai V et al. Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome Treatment & Management. Jan 2018. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/809598-treatment.
  2. Guidelines for diagnosis and management of disorders involving the temporomandibular joint and related musculoskeletal structures. Cranio. 2003; 21(1):68-76.