How Do You Diagnose TMJ?


TMJ is the abbreviation for the Temporomandibular Joint. This joint connects your jaw bone to your skull. The proper function of the TMJ is essential to chewing, speaking, and yawning. When a problem develops in the temporomandibular joint, the condition is known as either a TMJ disorder or TMD. You may suspect you have a problem in your TMJ if your jaw pops, clicks, or seems to lock up. Unexplained facial, shoulder, or neck pain may also be a symptom of TMJ. If you notice these symptoms it’s smart to see a top-rated dentist who can accurately diagnose the type and severity of your TMJ disorder.

Diagnosing TMJ Problems

At your initial appointment, your dentist will likely ask you a series of questions about your symptoms. Questions may include things like:

  •  Does your jaw pop all of the time? 
  • Do you experience facial pain? 
  • Are you having difficulty chewing?
  • Do you have headaches?
  • Are you experiencing any ringing in your ears (tinnitus), ear pain, or dizziness?
  • Is your jaw sore?

These questions are used to understand what type of TMJ disorder you may be experiencing.  TMJ disorders typically fall into three general categories, based on their cause. 

  • Myofascial Pain

This type of pain in the muscles of your face that are responsible for jaw function may indicate that teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism) is causing your pain.

  • Joint Pain (Arthritis)

If the jaw aches, this is an indication that arthritis may be to blame. Arthritis is a degenerative condition caused by inflammation and tenderness in the joints.  

  • Clicking and Popping with Pain

If your jaw clicks or pops when you chew, and also causes discomfort, an internal temporomandibular joint derangement may be causing it. Internal derangement is the medical terminology for a displacement of the articular disc in your joint. 

After providing answers to your dentist’s questions about your pain, they will examine your mouth and teeth. They will look for signs of teeth grinding, and will ask you to open and close your mouth so that they can see the function of your jaw.  They may put pressure on your joints as you open and close your mouth.  

Diagnostic Tests for TMJ

If your dentist confirms that you do have a TMJ disorder, they will likely need additional information to diagnose the cause of your TMJ. This is accomplished through one or several imaging tests. Depending upon what the dentist finds in the initial examination, scans may include:

  • CBCT Scan

This scan uses state-of-the-art 3D digital X-rays to provide a complete picture of the function of your mouth. It also shows part of your spine, jaw joint, teeth, and neck.

  • Electromyography (EMJ)

This test is used to measure activity in your head and neck muscles and uses stimulation to determine the cause, and consequently informs the treatment protocol for your TMJ disorder.  

  • Sonography

Sonography, also known as joint vibration analysis, is a technology that allows the dentist to listen to the sounds your joints are making. This can be extremely useful in determining precisely what is wrong in your jaw joint. 

  • Digital Bite Analyzer

This technology provides the dentist with insight into how your teeth touch each other, and how much pressure each tooth sustains. This allows the dentist to know how your jaw muscles are working. 

TMJ Treatment in San Francisco

If you’ve developed pain in your face, neck, jaw, or shoulders it’s time to seek treatment. Many dental problems can cause pain in the mouth and face and should be treated as soon as possible. Treatment for TMJ at San Francisco Dental Wellness ranges from conservative, non-surgical treatments such as lifestyle changes (soft food, icing) to anti-inflammatories, and Botox injections or stabilization splints. Contact us today to diagnose and begin treatment for TMJ by calling 415-781-1944 . For your convenience, you may also request an appointment online.