TMJ Disorders: Facts and Treatment

The most persistently used joint in the body, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), is responsible for the movement of the lower jaw (mandible). Without this joint, which connects the lower jaw with the skull, we would not be able to open our mouths to eat, chew, breathe, or talk.

What is TMD?

TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder) is characterized by pain and aching in the jaw, persistent clicking, limited range of motion and sometimes headaches or earaches. If you have any of these symptoms of TMD, it’s important to consult an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, as we specialize in treating problems with the facial bones, in particular the jaw. TMJ disorders may be mild to severe, short or long term. Therefore, Dr. Wasson treats each patient’s situation uniquely.

Causes of TMJ Disorders:

  • Bruxism (grinding): Often, people grind or clench their teeth at night while they are sleeping. This involuntary activity puts an enormous amount of pressure on the joint, creating inflammation.
  • Displacement or dislocation of the disk: There is a disk in between the jawbone and the socket that can become displaced, dislocated or damaged, causing damage and pain.
  • Trauma: An injury to any part of the jaw can cause pain in the joint.
  • Stress: Painful spasms and trouble moving the jaw are sometimes the result of stress.

Minimally Invasive TMJ TreatmenT

  • Treatment that avoids surgery or other invasive procedures and focuses on non-surgical management of symptoms.
  • Night Guards and Splints
    • More recent research reveals that splints and nightguards while helpful are not as successful in treating TMD as once believed. 
  • Physical Therapy
    • As with other joints in your body, strengthening the area and improving Range of Motion (ROM) are crucial in the treatment in TMJ disorders. 
  • Home Care
    • Soft Foods
    • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Stress Management
  • Relaxation Technique
  • Surgical Treatment
    • Dr. Wasson prefers conservative treatment of TMD hoping to avoid surgery whenever possible.  However, surgery is often required for TMJ disorders that have not responded to non-surgical treatments. When surgery is indicated, Dr. Wasson performs Minimally Invasive TMJ Surgery.


  • Avoiding Surgery Whenever Possible 
    • Trials of physical therapy, medications, diet modification, and occlusal (bite analysis) by your dentist for multiple months prior to considering surgical treatment. 
  • Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures as First-Line Treatment
    • Avoiding “open” joint surgery unless absolutely indicated
      • Incisions and surgery within the TMJ have risks and can lead to scarring that is best avoided if possible.  
    • Arthrocentesis and Arthroscopy
      • Surgical procedures avoiding incisions and utilizing only 1-3 needle punctures around your TMJ to irrigate the site, remove harmful inflammation, and improve scarring that may be present. 
    • Modified Condylotomy
      • A larger surgical procedure that allows the part of the jaw that is within the TMJ to “relocate” to the correct position without opening the TMJ or making facial incisions. 
      • This procedure is performed in a hospital setting and requires at least 1 week off from work/school. 
    • Open TMJ Surgery
      • Used as a last resort, Open TMJ surgery provides the benefit of direct visualization of the TMJ but is preferred as a last resort in Minimally Invasive Surgery

Determining the cause of TMJ disorders may seem complex, however we have a variety of tools at our disposal including advanced imaging techniques to accurately diagnosis and treat your TMJ pain. Give us a call at Seattle Office Phone Number 206-632-0220 for more information.