TMJ Dysfunction In Children

Often undiagnosed by Orthodontist, Pediatric and General Family Dentist alike; this alarming dysfunction in children is finally receiving the attention and research it deserves. Through education and advancements in diagnostic techniques; innovative treatment options are now available for children with limited jaw movement, bad bites and the facial abnormalities caused by TMJ Dysfunction.

Dr. Rosser will perform a comprehensive exam, collect a detailed history and use MRI and CT scans see the growth and development of the underlying structures of your child's jaw. We take this condition seriously and once a diagnosis is made, can assure you that we'll make every effort to treat your child or refer them to the most qualified specialists in the field.

TMJ Dysfunction

The temporomandibular joint is located at the intersection of where the lower jaw or mandible attaches to the skull and is one of the most frequently used joints in the body. The healthy function and development of this joint the adjoining muscles, ligaments and bones are essential because each time your child chews, talk or swallows, the TMJ moves.

Every parent wants their child's body to develop and function properly but life happens and it's not unusual for the active child to experience a compression type trauma from a blow to the chin or a fall on the face to cause injury to the TMJ. Although it might not be apparent at first, the TMJ can be affected by milder traumas as well, including a "stretch" trauma from a surgical intubation for a tonsillectomy or a "whiplash" type of trauma from a car or sports injury.

TMJ Dysfunction in children is a serious problem that often leads to the abnormal growth of the joint, resulting in the atypical development of the child's bite, facial distortion and asymmetry. This malady can effect children at any age so it's important to observe the development of your child and listen to any complaint or questionable habit that might indicate a problem to the jaw.



Childhood complaints may vary but be aware if your child has several of the symptoms listed below or continues to voice discomfort in the jaw and facial area.

  • A popping, clicking or grinding sound that occurs when your child’s mouth is opened.
  • Complaints of ringing, hissing or buzzing in their ears.
  • Dizziness, recurring headaches on the side of the head, throbbing in the cheek and lower jaw or in the teeth.
  • Complaints of ear pain that comes and goes that is NOT associated with cold symptoms or fever.
  • A noticeable limitation in jaw movement when speaking, yawing, eating or not being able to fully open and close their mouth.
  • Complaints of discomfort when swallowing, yawning, talking or chewing. The common area of pain is over the joint and immediately in front of the ear but it can radiate into the neck and shoulders too. The pain can also cause spasms in the adjacent muscles that attach to the bones of the skull, face and the jaw
  • A noticeable space between the top and bottom of your child’s front teeth when they bite together- where the back molars are touching but the front teeth don’t. Their chin retrudes, meaning that the chin appears weak or small and doesn’t align with the upper part of the jaw. A retruded chin will result in a noticeable change to your child’s profile. A chin that is not centered on the face but appears to deviate more to one side of the face.

It is interesting to note that young children with TMJ problems exhibit little pain as a presenting complaint. It is not until the late teenage years that pain is more prevalent.

Suggested Treatment

Suggested Treatment

Treatment is required for this dysfunction. Left unaddressed, the symptoms and physical problems will exacerbate into adulthood.

At the childhood stage we have the opportunity to correct the dysfunction and allow the child to develop more normally. Just treating the symptoms alone is NOT appropriate care for a TMJ problem in a child.

A comprehensive physical exam conducted by a doctor with extensive experience with TMJ Dysfunction is essential in making a definitive diagnosis but the keys to determining the most beneficial course of treatment involve the utilization of diagnostic techniques that include MRI and CT scans. These scans allow us to see the internal structures of the jaw, the joint and disk and are necessary to establish the level of TMJ Dysfunction in your child. The results will determine the treatment necessary to bring your child back into function and normalcy.

Definitions of a MRI & CT Scan

MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the body. Relative to the TMJ, MRI allows direct visualization and evaluation of both hard and soft tissue jaw joint structures. Multiple custom bite records of your mouth are made at Dr. Rosser's office to be utilized during the MRI process. The purpose of these bite records are to simulate jaw movements, allowing the TMJ's to be analyzed in different functioning positions (such as chewing & talking).

CT: Computed Tomography. Unlike MRI's, a CT scan uses low dose radiation utilizing the latest CB (Cone Beam) technology. The hard tissues of the TMJ's are imaged from all angles and direct measurements can be made with the software enabling precise analysis of the TMJ.