Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Grand Rapids MI TMJ/TMD Relief | Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

What is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD) is a common condition that can cause migraine-like headaches, facial pain, and other painful symptoms, yet it often goes undiagnosed and untreated by physicians who lack training and experience in the field of neuromuscular dentistry.

The Grand Rapids dentists at A Life of Smiles understand the vague indicators of TMJ/TMD and their potential sources, and we have extensive experience helping patients find long-term relief from the chronic discomfort of temporomandibular joint disorder. If you suffer from regular headaches and other symptoms detailed on these pages, please call us at our Grand Rapids, MI office at 616.458.0631 to schedule your personal TMJ/TMD assessment.

What Causes TMJ Disorder?

TMJ Disorder derives its name from the temporomandibular joints, which are joints that help connect your mandible (lower jaw) to your skull. These joints are components of a sensitive connective network that also includes the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve is responsible for registering sensation throughout your face.

Malocclusions (site conditions), a misaligned jaw or bad oral health habits like teeth grinding can overstress the joints, nerves, and muscles in this connective region between your mandible and skull, leading to recurring and progressively worsening symptoms.

TMJ Symptoms

TMJ, alternately known as TMD, is the name given to any number of disorders affecting the proper alignment of your jaw. Understandably then, many of the symptoms of TMJ occur in and around the jaw joint. These may include:

  • Clicking, popping, or grinding noises when chewing
  • Jaw swelling and pain
  • Facial pain
  • Limited ability to open the jaw or complete lockjaw

These symptoms are a clear indication of the presence of TMJ and should be brought to the attention of Dr. Jerry Mulder as soon as they occur.

Because it alters jaw alignment, TMJ can have a serious impact on the health and comfort of your teeth. Common with this disorder are uneven tooth wear, loose or shifting teeth, gum pain, and speech abnormalities. Though these are not always associated with TMJ, their sudden occurrence should prompt a call to our office for a thorough examination.

In addition to symptoms occurring in the mouth and around the jaw, TMJ commonly results in systemic issues such as:

  • Headaches
  • Ocular pressure
  • Ear pain without the presence of infection
  • Generalized facial, neck, shoulder, and back pain
  • Postural changes
  • Digestive difficulties

Along with these symptoms can come nausea, vertigo, tinnitus, and a host of other consequences, making it important that you seek proper treatment as soon as symptoms become present.

Treating TMJ requires proper alignment be restored to the jaw. To accomplish this, Dr. Mulder utilizes a combined approach that may include orthotics, tooth reshaping, restorative dental treatments, and similarly effective options. What combination of treatments is best for your particular needs will be determined during your TMJ evaluation.

TMJ Headaches

Severe headaches often described as migraines are among the most common symptoms of TMJ/TMD. Patients with TMJ/TMD generally experience regular headaches in addition to other symptoms that include:

  • An inability to hold your mandible in a consistent, comfortable resting position
  • Pain in your jaw, neck, and shoulders
  • Facial pain
  • Difficulty biting and chewing
  • Jaw popping or clicking
  • Jaw sticking or locking
  • Ringing in your ears or earaches
  • Numbness or tingling in your hands and fingers

Because many of these symptoms are shared with other ailments, TMJ/TMD is frequently unreported by patients or undiagnosed by general physicians. Patients who actually have TMJ/TMD may believe they are suffering from a toothache, sinus infection, arthritis or other medical problem.

TMJ Related Facial Pain

It’s hard to believe that anywhere from 12% to 15% of adults experience constant facial pain. Facial pain is any pain in the facial area. The origin of facial pain can stem from both of the Temporomandibular (TM) Joints or just one. The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is located on each side of one’s head. These Joints work together, along with a complicated system of ligaments, muscles, bones, and discs to make the jaw movements necessary for speaking, yawning and eating.

Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD) are a very complex in nature and originate from a poorly understood set of conditions identified by pain in the jaw joint (TM), muscles, surrounding tissues and nerves. It also limits jaw movements. There are a variety of symptoms and pains associated with TMD. They are:

  • Headaches
  • Ear pain (in or around) and ear pressure
  • Difficulty when opening and closing mouth. Limited movement
  • Jaw locking
  • Sensitive teeth (even when teeth are healthy and have no dental issues)
  • Clicking or popping noises when opening or closing mouth
  • Tender or sore jaw
  • Jaw muscle stiffness
  • Neck aches
  • Vision problems
  • Jaw pain when biting, yawning or chewing
  • Dizziness

TMJ/TMD Treatment

TMJ Treatment requires proper alignment be restored to the jaw. To accomplish this, Dr. Mulder utilizes a combined approach that may include orthotics, tooth reshaping, restorative dental treatments, and similarly effective options. What combination of treatments is best for your particular needs will be determined during your TMJ evaluation.

Many patients find lasting relief from TMJ/TMD pain with the use of custom-made oral appliances. Similar to sports mouthguards, these devices are designed to hold your jaw in its natural position as you sleep to promote a proper bite. Patients with TMJ/TMD caused by advanced malocclusions may benefit from Invisalign or other orthodontics to correct the bite condition.

Schedule a Consultation


If you’re bothered by chronic headaches and other TMD related symptoms, please call A Life of Smiles at 616.458.0631 to schedule your personal consultation with Dr. Mulder. Our knowledgeable dentists welcome patients from the greater Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Holland and Grand Haven, Michigan, areas.