TMJ: Everybody’s Got It (Two of Them, Actually)

A new year, a new pet peeve.

It began with a question posted at Yahoo Answers:

Can you ever stop tmj?

We certainly hope not! To say you want to “stop TMJ” is like saying you want to stop your elbow or knee or any other joint.

For that’s what TMJ is – and all that it is. The letters stand for temporomandibular joint. You have two of them: one on each side of your head, and they’re what allow your mouth to open and close.




If they get damaged or misaligned due to trauma or habits of clenching, grinding and bruxing, the result is pain – starting in the jaw and, if left untreated, cascading into the head, neck, shoulders and back. This pain and associated symptoms are part of what is more properly known as TMD, or temporomandibular disorder (or dysfunction). And TMD is usually what people are talking about when they ask questions like the above and these others, also posted on Yahoo Answers:

  • What is TMJ and what does the dentist do about it?
  • If I have TMJ should I go to my doctor or dentist?
  • Does it hurt to get surgery done on my jaw to get rid of TMJ?
  • How do you deal with TMJ?

When you know what “TMJ” really is, then such questions start to appear like so much nonsense.

But this isn’t to blame those who ask the questions. The problem lies with those who should know better, such as those who write books with titles like:

  • Taking Control of TMJ
  • TMJ: The Jaw Connection: The Overlooked Diagnosis: A Self-Care Guide to Diagnosing and Managing This Hidden Ailment
  • Eliminate TMJ and Teeth Grinding
  • Freedom from TMJ
  • You Can Conquer TMJ
  • TMJ: The Self-Help Program

All these titles occur in the top 12 results of an Amazon book search on “TMJ” and are popular sources of information on jaw, face, head and neck pain. They teach the concepts and terminology to laypeople.

Words matter. Language matters. The more specifically you can ask a question, the more likely it is that you will get sound and useful answers.

Language is the only instrument of science, and words are but the signs of ideas. – Samuel Johnson

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world. – Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Published by The Verigin Dental Health Team

A humanistic, holistic dental practice in Northern California, providing integrative, biological, mercury-free dentistry

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