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What causes TMJ pain?

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Quick Answer

Possible causes for temporomandibular joint pain include arthritis, stress, movement of the disk that cushions the joint, and grinding of the teeth, according to WebMD. The pain can be temporary or chronic and affect one or both sides of the face. The pain can reach as far as the shoulders. Other symptoms of TMJ disorder include a popping or clicking noise when opening the mouth, sticking of the jaw in an open or closed position, difficulty chewing, and pain.

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Most patients with TMJ disorder find relief through self-managed care without surgery, but others require surgical intervention. Patients may benefit from stretching exercises, avoiding overuse of the joint, and hot or cold therapy. Oral splints, physical therapy and counseling are also nonsurgical therapies, according to Mayo Clinic.

If the condition does not respond to conservative care, the doctor may suggest arthrocentesis, a procedure using needles to irrigate the joint with liquid and remove any debris or products of inflammation. Corticosteroid injections may also be used to reduce the pain the disorder causes, reports Mayo Clinic.

If other treatments fail and the doctor finds a problem with joint structure, he may recommend surgery. However, such surgery is considered controversial, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reports. Medical care providers avoid it whenever possible, advises Mayo Clinic.

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