Jaw Pain

Temporal Mandibular Joint (TMJ) Dysfunction

The most common cause of jaw pain is related to Temporal Mandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction. The TMJ is located directly in front of your ear, below your temple and is used during talking, chewing, yawning, etc.


  • Ear pain
  • Sore jaw muscles (spasms)
  • Pain associated with swallowing, yawning, talking, or chewing
  • Popping/clicking when the jaw is open wide
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Difficulty opening he mouth fully
  • Frequent headaches
  • Neck aches are common
  • Ringing in the ears

The pain of TMJ dysfunction may be sharp, or it may be dull and constant. The pain can be debilitating.

Things that can go wrong with TMJ

In most patients, the pain of TMJ dysfunction is caused by the cartilage disc in the joint moving out of place and causing pressure on sensitive structures around the joint. If the TMJ pops or clicks, this is the disc snapping into place when the jaw moves. In addition, the chewing muscles may spasm, not function efficiently, and cause pain and tenderness.

Both major and minor trauma to the jaw can cause the development of TMJ dysfunction. If you habitually clench, grit, or grind your teeth you increase the wear on the cartilage lining of the joint, and it does not have a chance to recover. Grinding the teeth at night can cause this, chewing gum much of the day, as well as stress and other psychological factors which tend to make you tense. Other causes include teeth that to not fit together properly (improper bite), malpositioned jaws, and arthritis.

The TMJ is frequently injured during motor vehicle accidents causing a whiplash or direct trauma to the joint.


Your physiotherapist can help by teaching you relaxation and stretching exercises and by manually mobilizing the joint and surrounding soft tissues.

Making changes in your life such as these can also ease the symptoms:

  • Rest the muscles and joints by eating soft foods
  • Avoid chewing gum
  • Avoid clenching your teeth
  • Relax muscles with moist heat or ice
  • Develop relaxation skills to specifically target the TMJ muscles