TMJ – We can help with jaw pain!

woman holding her jaw in painTMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders are a family of problems related to your jaw joint. If you have had symptoms like pain or a “clicking” sound, you’ll be glad to know that these problems are more easily diagnosed and treated than they were in the past. These symptoms occur when the joints of the jaw and the chewing muscles do not work together correctly. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, which is the name for each joint (right and left) that connects your jaw to your skull. Since some types of TMJ problems can lead to more serious conditions, early detection and treatment are important.

No treatment can resolve TMJ disorders completely and treatment takes time to become effective. At The Dentists at Houston Westchase, Dr. McRay and Dr. Robbins can offer different kinds of therapy to help relieve your TMJ issues in order to have a healthier, more comfortable jaw.


TMJ disorders – also called TMD for short – develop for many reasons. You might clench or grind your teeth, tightening your jaw muscles and stressing your TM joint. You may have a damaged jaw joint due to injury or disease. Injuries and arthritis can damage the joint directly or stretch or tear the muscle ligaments. As a result, the disk, which is made of cartilage and functions as the “cushion” of the jaw joint, can slip out of position. Whatever the cause, the results may include a misaligned bite, pain, clicking, or grating noise when you open your mouth, or trouble opening your mouth wide.


man touching his face in painWhile the most obvious symptoms of TMD may be pain in the jaw, especially near the joints there are some common signs and symptoms you should be aware of.  Questions we often ask to help screen would include the following:

  • Are you aware of grinding or clenching your teeth?
  • Do you wake up with sore, stiff muscles around your jaws?
  • Do you have frequent headaches or neck aches?
  • Does the pain get worse when you clench your teeth?
  • Does stress make your clenching and pain worse?
  • Does your jaw click, pop, catch, or lock when you open your mouth?
  • Is it difficult or painful to open your mouth, eat, or yawn?
  • Have you ever injured your neck, head, or jaws?
  • Have you had problems (such as arthritis) with other joints?
  • Do you have teeth that no longer touch when you bite?
  • Do your teeth meet differently from time to time?
  • Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear food?
  • Are your teeth sensitive, loose, broken or worn?

The more times you answered “yes”, the more likely it is that

you have a TMJ disorder. Understanding TMJ disorders will also

help you understand how they are treated.


person holding their hands out palms up

There are various treatment options for TMD solutions that Dr. McRay and Dr. Robbins can utilize to improve the harmony and function of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis of TMJ disorder, our doctors will determine the proper course of treatment. It is important to note that treatment always works best with a team approach of self-care combined with professional care.

The initial goals are to relieve the muscle spasms and joint pain. This is usually accomplished with a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, or muscle relaxant. Steroids can be injected directly into the joints to reduce pain and inflammation. Self-care treatments can often be effective as well and include:

  • Resting your jaw
  • Keeping your teeth apart when you are not swallowing or eating
  • Eating soft foods
  • Applying ice and heat
  • Exercising your jaw
  • Practicing good posture


person's mouth getting its teeth polishedOften times, a misaligned bite is the source of TMD.  In many cases, this can be corrected by adjusted and selectively contouring particular surfaces of your teeth so that biting pressure is distributed correctly.  In certain cases, this might involve restorations placed on key top surfaces – commonly referred to as occlusal surfaces – of particular teeth so that your bite can be optimized and balanced.


person holding an oral applianceOur most common solution for treating TMD relies on fabrication of a custom oral appliance.  Our appliances – commonly referred to as a bite guard, occlusal guard or night guard – will maintain your jaw, teeth, and muscles in a more comfortable resting position to relieve tension placed on the temporomandibular joints.

It can also protect the teeth from harmful grinding the can contribute to the conditions. It works by fitting over your top or bottom teeth and helps keep your teeth apart

thereby relaxing the muscles and reducing pain. There are different types of appliances used for different purposes. A night guard or bite guard helps you minimize clenching or grinding your teeth – commonly called bruxism – and reduces muscle tension at night. It also helps to protect the cartilage and joint surfaces. A properly fitted oral appliance worn regularly can help permanently improve symptoms.


person getting botoxBelieve it or not BOTOX therapeutic treatments can also be used as an alternative for TMD treatment.  Whether used alone or in combination with oral appliances, injection therapy can help drastically minimize the muscles in your jaw – masseter muscles – and in your temporal region of the face – temporalis muscles – from making often unconscious movements that cause tension and produce headaches.  Many patients experience relief with our treatments instantly within just a few hours!


invisalign alignerMisaligned teeth not only affect your smile and your oral health but can also contribute to TMJ related problems as well. Invisalign® works to progressively straighten teeth and jaw misalignment using a series of clear aligner trays over the course of treatment which can typically range from six months to two years depending on the goals.

Dr. McRay and Dr. Robbins offer Invisalign routinely not only as a cosmetic focus but also as a functional treatment option to eliminate TMD issues restoring balance and comfort.


If your TMJ disorder has any skeletal as well as dental deficiencies, surgical options, such as arthroscopy and open joint repair restructuring, are sometimes needed.  However, as these are invasive and costly, Dr. McRay and Dr. Robbins do not consider TMJ surgery unless the jaw cannot open properly, is dislocated and non-reducible from trauma, and/or has severe degeneration.  The vast majority of our treatments listed are simple, flexible, and equally innovative to provide you the assurance and resolution from TMJ you expect!

Ready to remedy tmj?  come see us – we’re ready to help!

person holding dental tools