Causes of TMJ Disorders

Knowing the cause of your jaw joint pain is crucial in getting the right treatment. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of TMJ disorders, it’s important to see someone who has experience dealing with the jaw joint. Together you can determine the cause of your TMJ pain.


Let’s take some time to understand what causes TMJ disorders along with some common risk factors.

Understanding the Anatomy of the Jaw Joint.

In order to understand how TMJ disorders happen, we need to think about how the jaw joint works. Most people don’t think much about the jaw joint, but it’s actually the most important joint in your body. Your jaw joint makes it possible for you to eat and speak. 

The TMJ is like many other joints in the body. There are ligaments, tendons, muscle attachments, and cartilage. Your jaw joint also has a synovial disc, which provides lubrication and nutrition to the joint. Since your jaw joint functions as a whole unit, if any part is damaged, it can cause everything else to work harder. This often leads to overworked joints, which leads to inflammation and pain.

Since the TMJ is like other joints, it can be affected by injury or arthritis, just like your knees or hips. So, when we are trying to determine the cause of your TMJ disorder, we need to take an orthopedic approach– just like we would with your other joints.

Does Stress Cause TMJ Pain?

A lot of people associate TMJ pain with stress. Stress can both cause and be caused by TMJ pain. Clenching and grinding your teeth is a common response to stress. Grinding and clenching can overwork your jaw joint. And over time, the joint will begin to break down. The alignment of your bite may also be affected, which puts extra pressure on the TMJ. The damage done to the joint causes TMJ pain.

Even though stress is a common cause of TMJ disorders, it’s not always the cause. Some patients will find relief by relaxing. 

However, this doesn’t work for all patients. A lot of patients get frustrated when they are told stress is the cause of their TMJ pain, but no matter how much they relax, their pain still won’t go away. If we truly want to treat TMJ pain, we need to make sure we don’t just default to assuming it’s caused by stress. A thorough diagnosis is crucial to determining the cause of TMJ disorders.

What Causes TMJ Disorders Stress

Can Arthritis Cause TMJ Pain?

Because the TMJ is like your knees and hips, it can be affected by arthritis. Usually, arthritis involves the degeneration or inflammation of the joint. In most cases, your other joints will be affected by arthritis before the jaw joint. 

Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis are the most common types of arthritis that cause TMJ pain. If we determine that your jaw joint pain is related to arthritis, it can help us address that problem directly. In this case, we will work with the rest of your medical team to make sure you get the treatment you need.

Understanding the Causes of TMJ Disorders

The More You Know

Knowing the potential causes of TMJ disorders can help you figure out how to move forward with treatment. Your TMJ team should plan your treatment around the root cause. No matter what caused your TMJ disorder, it is important to have a dental specialist talk to you about your symptoms and perform a thorough diagnosis.


Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic.

TMJ disorders – Symptoms and causes. (2018b, December 28). Mayo Clinic.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD, TMJ). (2003, June 3). WebMD.

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