Understanding “TMJ” Problems


If you have been referred to our office by your dentist or other health care provider, you may have a condition that has traditionally been referred to as “TMJ”. If you have not been referred to us, but you have reason to think that you have this condition. Hopefully the information below will help you understand what this is. There is other information on this website that will help you understand how these conditions are treated.


What Is “TMJ”?


The term, “TMJ”, has been commonly used in magazine articles and in television reports and elsewhere as if it designates a distinct, well-defined disorder. This is a misrepresentation. Although innocent, it has led to a certain amount of confusion among the general public. The letters stand for Temporo Mandibular Joint. This term, “TMJ”, actually refers to a broad class of conditions involving the jaw system that may or may not include problems with the temporomandibular (jaw) joints, themselves. They represent some manner of abnormal function (“dysfunction”) of the jaw system The symptoms that may be a part of this condition are not the problem — they are an expression of, are caused by, the dysfunction. Because they involve the jaw system, the dental profession has primary professional responsibility for their management. Other adjunctive treatments may also be helpful in combination with appropriate dental treatment.


The American Dental Association has suggested that “TMD” (for Temporomandibular Disorders) is the more appropriate terminology. Althought this may be a better term for general use, the term “TMJ” will probably continue to be used and may continue to contribute to some confusion in the future.


As a broad group of disorders, “TMJ” or “TMD” represent conditions that have certain common symptoms (see the next category), which occur principally in the muscles and joints of the jaw system. It is because these disorders tend to have certain common symptoms that there is a tendency to think of them as a single disorder.


Our Commitment to Our Patients


Our commitment to our patients is to address the actual disorder (dysfunction), not just the symptoms. If we have an opportunity to evaluate you, we will ask you to complete a lengthy history questionnaire. This will be followed by a thorough examination. In most instances we will then be able to explain to you exactly what is causing your symptoms. Infrequently there may be a need for some specialized imaging to clarify what is occurring. In addition to explaining the treatment that will relieve those symptoms, we will also explain what treatment may be required to minimize the likelihood that those symptoms will return. In other words, we will describe to you what definitive treatment would mean for the actual disorder, not just the symptoms, that caused you to come to our office.


Very few in the health care community have had the opportunity to provide more than limited symptomatic treatment for these disorders. Dr. Higdon’s professional career of over 30 years has been devoted to these disorders and related problems with the jaw system, including the dental occlusion (bite). He has provided definitive treatment for thousands of patients who have reported symptoms similar to what you may be experiencing. His experience in this field is equaled by very few practitioners anywhere in this country or elsewhere. His thorough and comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment assures a standard of care that is unmatched.