Jaw and TMJ Pain/Dysfunction

man suffering from jaw painThe Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is the joint of the jaw and connects the lower jawbone or mandible to the upper temporal bone which is part of the cranium (skull). Though pain or dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint is typically referred to as “TMJ”, it is just the name of the joint. The actual term for these symptoms is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (or dysfunction). TMD is the abbreviated form of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder.

TMJ Disorder typically cause several problems such as jaw pain, jaw lock, jaw popping, and jaw clicking.

The Causes of TMD

It is a bit surprising but true that scientists do not know the actual causes. Scientists assume that a female hormone may be the cause of TMJ Disorder since females are more affected than men.

In some cases, trauma and development factors are typically the initial factors of TMD. There is a soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket of your joint. If arthritis starts developing in the disk, you will be affected by more serious conditions.

Some says rheumatic disease, such as arthritis, may also be the cause of TMJ Disorders.

There is a popular belief that a bad bite or orthodontic braces can trigger TMJ disorders. But this theory is disputed by the researches and is of course not proven.

TMJ pain disorder symptoms

Women suffer from TMJ problem more than men. It is more common in people between the ages of 20 and 40. Patients may be affected more seriously when they wake up. An affected person may have one or more of these following conditions at the same time.

  • In your jaw joint area or the muscles of mastication, you will feel pain and tenderness on palpation. You will not only feel pain just in front of the ear but also in other situations such as chewing, clenching or yawning. The pain can be dull, aching, intermittent or even constant but rarely severe.
  • Eating and even talking become difficult because mandibular movement becomes limited. Affected person cannot normally eat or talk because stiffness occurs in the jaw muscles and the joints. Less or more of the jaw locking is also possible.
  • Clicking, popping, or crepitus (grating) noise is created during mandibular movement. The noise may be intermittent though.
  • Other less common symptoms are – (a) pain or tenderness in the face, teeth, neck and shoulders (b) headache (c) hearing loss (d) dizziness (e) blinking (f) a sense that the teeth do not meet together properly and (g) pain or feeling of pressure behind the eyes.

TMD can be a chronic problem

TMJ Dysfunction will not only irritate the outer part of the damaged disc but also make it hard and brittle. Then your Dehydrated Disc will eventually be displaced. You will suffer from chronic inflammation and pain when the disc is displaced.

It will also irritate adjacent muscles and cause Chronic Jaw Muscle Spasm.

Normal blood supply to the affected areas will be disturbed. So, the affected muscles will not be healed since adequate amounts of oxygen, glucose and nutrients cannot be supplied through blood.

Why should you use laser therapy?

Of course there are several treatment methods available. Some such typical treatments are pain killers, dental splints, injections, massages, physical therapy, chiropractic or anti-inflammatory medications. But unfortunately these therapies work for some but don’t always resolve all the various form of TMJ pain for everyone, even after months and years of various treatment forms. This is because these therapies are not very successful to restore the displaced disk. The typical methods try to send blood to the affected areas and rely on available paths to send blood. If adequate amount of blood can be sent, the muscles and other affected parts will get energy and be healed. But TMD complications often block blood sending to the affected areas. So, typical therapies are often not very effective.

Laser technology has been so advanced that it is possible to restore the disk using this technology. Laser therapy can help TMD patients not only by restoring the displaced disc but also healing the nerves surrounding the disk. Laser therapy can send blood to the affected areas so that the muscles and other parts get enough energy to heal themselves.

Though high power lasers often have high penetration and dosage capabilities, it does not mean it will hurt or burn. The therapist does not need to cut any part of your body. This is safe when a trained therapist delivers deep tissue laser therapy.

When laser therapy may fail

You already know that the therapist or doctor needs to push energy into deep affected areas. Low level cold lasers have limited power. It also cannot reach to the damaged tissues because it can ensure only limited dosage. But high power laser therapy can bypass the blood circulation system. It delivers laser energy directly to the affected cells and muscles.

Thus, low level cold lasers are not a good solution to restore the disc. You may have gone through laser therapy before but did not get expected results because your therapist may have used low level laser. Low level Deep tissue laser therapy is good for reducing the pain and inflammation1. It is also good for increasing range of motion to the neck and in opening the mouth.

Another common and important reason is – your therapist might have applied laser to the wrong points. It is a bit shocking but true. If your problem is not properly diagnosed, the therapist may not know exactly where to apply the laser dosage. A proper and right diagnosis can help to find articular, muscular, and neurological causes of you problem. Your therapist may need one or more full face X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computer tomography (CT). If she is applying dosage into wrong points over and over again, this is not going to help any of you. Some therapists’ primary goal is to remove pain rather than to heal permanently.

The final issue is the DOSAGE. You need to have a proper dosage. Low level lasers have a difficult time getting the right dosage deep enough to get the proper effect. High power deep tissue laser at Lite Recovery does not have this issue  and excels at providing the proper dosage at the proper location, first time, every time.

Laser treatment’s medical success records in TMJ Disorder

The following section contains information only from medical researches and investigations. These researches and investigators have discovered some important facts regarding TMJ Disorder.

  • An investigation was conducted to measure the effectiveness of low-level laser therapy in the treatment of temporomandibular disorder. Several benefits were found such as – (a) a number of tender points were significantly improved (b) lateral motion and (c) active and passive maximum mouth opening.2
  • The results of another study found that low-level laser therapy (LLLT) treatment is effective to TMD-related pain, especially long lasting pain.3
  • In another research, low intensity laser therapy (LILT) was applied twice a week, for four weeks. The result showed the effectiveness of LILT in pain control, especially lower sensitivity to palpation.4
  • Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) was used to treat patients with arthralgia. The analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects were achieved.5
  • In another study, it was found that Low Intensity Laser Therapy (LILT) low intensity laser application is effective in reducing TMD symptoms, and has influence over masticatory efficiency.6
  • Researches found that low-level laser therapy (LLLT) can impact on the significant improvement of mouth opening and motion in patients with (TMD).7
  • Low-level laser therapy is a good alternative physical modality in the management of temporomandibular disorder.8
  • In the treatment of TMD, the application of LLLT can be resulted in the immediate decrease of painful symptoms and increased range of mandibular movements.9
  • In another study, 154 patients were suffering from disorders of the maxillofacial region. Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) was found effective as 241 patients were asymptomatic at the end of the treatment, 50 improved considerably, and 37 were symptomatic.10
  • Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) was applied on the treatment of maxillofacial disorders. 120 out of 165 patients were asymptomatic at the end of the treatment, 25 improved considerably, and 20 were symptomatic.11


Why will you not use laser therapy if it is so successful to heal TMJ Disorder? We can help you with our valuable complimentary consult and guidance.  CALL US NOW  and see if Lite Recovery deep tissue laser therapy is ideal for you.

Call us today at 925-275-9350 or fill out the contact form here and we will contact you.


  1. Maia, ML; Bonjardim, LR; Quintans Jde, S; Ribeiro, MA; Maia, LG; Conti, PC (Nov–Dec 2012). “Effect of low-level laser therapy on pain levels in patients with temporomandibular disorders: a systematic review”. Journal of applied oral science : revista FOB 20 (6): 594–602. doi:10.1590/S1678-77572012000600002. PMID 23329239
  2. Kulekcioglu S, Sivrioglu K, Ozcan O, & Parlak M. Effectiveness of low-level laser therapy in temporomandibular disorder. 2003;32(2):114-8. PMID: 12737331 Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12737331?dopt=Abstract
  3. Fikácková H, Dostálová T, Navrátil L, & Klaschka J. Effectiveness of low-level laser therapy in temporomandibular joint disorders: a placebo-controlled study. 2007 Aug;25(4):297-303. PMID: 17803388. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17803388?ordinalpos=164&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
  4. Mazzetto MO1, Carrasco TG, Bidinelo EF, de Andrade Pizzo RC, & Mazzetto RG. Low intensity laser application in temporomandibular disorders: a phase I double-blind study. 2007 Jul;25(3):186-92. PMID: 17696035 Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17696035?ordinalpos=174&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
  5. Fikácková H, Dostálová T, Vosická R, Peterová V, Navrátil L, & Lesák J. Arthralgia of the temporomandibular joint and low-level laser therapy. 2006 Aug;24(4):522-7. PMID: 16942435. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16942435?dopt=AbstractPlus
  6. Carrasco TG, Mazzetto MO, Mazzetto RG, & Mestriner W Jr. Low intensity laser therapy in temporomandibular disorder: a phase II double-blind study. 2008 Oct;26(4):274-81. PMID: 19004308. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19004308?ordinalpos=12&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RV
  7. Núñez SC, Garcez AS, Suzuki SS, Ribeiro MS. Management of mouth opening in patients with temporomandibular disorders through low-level laser therapy and transcutaneous electrical neural stimulation. 2006 Feb;24(1):45-9. PMID: 16503788. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16503788?dopt=AbstractPlus
  8. Kulekcioglu S, Sivrioglu K, Ozcan O, & Parlak M. Effectiveness of low-level laser therapy in temporomandibular disorder. 2003;32(2):114-8. PMID: 12737331. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12737331?dopt=AbstractPlus
  9. Mazzetto MO, Hotta TH, & Pizzo RC. Measurements of jaw movements and TMJ pain intensity in patients treated with GaAlAs laser. 2010;21(4):356-60. PMID: 20976388. Retrieved http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20976388
  10. Pinheiro AL, Cavalcanti ET, Pinheiro TI, Alves MJ, Miranda ER, De Quevedo AS, Manzi CT, Vieira AL, & Rolim AB. Low-level laser therapy is an important tool to treat disorders of the maxillofacial region. 1998 Aug;16(4):223-6. PMID: 9796491. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9796491?dopt=AbstractPlus
  11. Pinheiro AL, Cavalcanti ET, Pinheiro TI, Alves MJ, & Manzi CT. Low-level laser therapy in the management of disorders of the maxillofacial region. 1997;15(4):181-3. PMID: 9612167. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9612167?dopt=AbstractPlus