How Can a Dentist Tell If You Have TMJ?

woman holding her jaw in pain, TMJ

Jaw pain and daily facial discomfort are your body's way of signaling that something is wrong. Do you experience persistent jaw discomfort and pain that affects your quality of life? If so, you could be among millions of Americans suffering from TMJ disorder.

Self-diagnosis is not a wise move in most dental cases. If you are experiencing jaw pain or trouble chewing, you should visit your dentist as soon as possible. It is best to exercise extreme caution before buying over-the-counter products or devices to remedy the problem. Some of these products are unregulated and can worsen your condition.

What Is the Temporomandibular Joint?

The temporomandibular joint is necessary for talking and chewing as it gives the ability to open and close the mouth. The TMJs connect the mandible and the temporal bone on both sides of the skull. It is one of the most complex and hardest working joints since it allows for movement both side-to-side and up-and-down.

What Are TMJ Disorders?

Issues with the functionality and alignment of these joints can result in this disorder. Temporomandibular joint disorders affect the TMJ, leading to various symptoms that cause varying levels of discomfort. Temporomandibular joint disorders are a broad category.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research classifies these disorders into three main categories. These are:

  • Myofascial Pain TMJ: This is the most common form and involves pain or discomfort in the muscles that control the neck, jaw, and shoulders

  • Joint Disease TMJ: This condition can impede joint mobility and cause pain due to the diseases that affect the joint, such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis

  • Joint Misalignment TMJ: This form results from a displacement in the jaw joints due to injury or genetics

Unfortunately, you can suffer from one or more of these categories simultaneously.


  • Pain when you wake up or when you open your mouth too wide

  • Clicking noises when you open your mouth or chew

  • Trouble opening your mouth or chewing

  • Tinnitus

Do You Have a TMJ Disorder?

When you see your dentist about your symptoms, they will use several tests to determine whether you have TMJ and rule out other possible causes. Your dentist will perform several tests when screening for temporomandibular joint disorders. These include:


The dentist will apply a bit of pressure to your jaw and TMJ using their fingers to test for pain or tenderness.


The dentist will look for teeth clenching, grinding, and alignment issues. Dentists may recommend X-rays when they find evidence of a TMJ disorder.


The dentist will ask you to open and close your mouth while they listen for clicking and popping sounds.


Though this mysterious disorder can cause agonizing pain and interfere with your quality of life, it can vanish as quickly as it appears. Making an accurate diagnosis can take a while. The simple explanation is that only a dentist is qualified to examine you for jaw and mouth abnormalities and perform tests to determine the source of your pain.

For more on TMJ, visit Eagle Gate Dental at our Salt Lake City, Utah office. Call 801-781-5300 to schedule an appointment today.