Manhattan TMJ Specialist - Dr. Jennifer Stachel

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a delicate joint that connects the jawbone to the skull, and exerts an enormous amount of force.  It is one of the most complex joints in the human body.  Any imbalances over time can result in chronic pain not only in the jaw, but also to a network of nerves that run through the neck, face and head. Therefore, TMJ disorders often cause discomfort in the cheek, jaw, or ear areas and cause abnormal jaw function.

Discomfort of the temporomandibular joint or TMJ is not uncommon.  Because of the lack of understanding by dentists and physicians, it is common to feel that there is no treatment for the disorder and the expectation is to deal with the symptoms.

Here is some information to help understand the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).  The temporomandibular joints or TMJ’s are designed to support constant motion to allow speaking, chewing, talking and yawning without discomfort.  The TMJ’s require fluid to enable the hinging motion between the upper and lower jaws.  When functioning properly, they act as a well-oiled machine.

Like other joints of the body, there are many reasons for TMJ problems.  The temporomandibular joint is affected by the nervous system, muscles and dental occlusion.  Trauma to the joint resulting in injury to the bone, ligaments and cartilage can contribute to temporomandibular joint discomfort.  Other causes are inflamed, tight or tired muscles, and even recent dental treatment.

TMJ conditions fall into three main categories:

  • Myofacial pain – discomfort or pain in the muscles that control jaw function (grinding teeth can result in this type of TMJ disorder)
  • Internal derangement of the joint – a possible indicator of a displaced disc, dislocated jaw, or injury to the condyle

Arthritis – a degenerative inflammatory disorder


Signs and symptoms of TMJ disorder can include:

  • Headaches
  • Soreness in the cheek or jaw area
  • Pain in or around the ears
  • Facial pain
  • Tight jaws
  • Popping or clicking sounds when opening the mouth
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Difficulty chewing

These symptoms can be intensified by stress.


In less severe cases, TMJ disorders can be treated with self-managed care (eating soft foods, applying ice packs or heat, avoiding extreme jaw movement) or nonsurgical treatments (anti-inflammatory medications, Botox injections, or stabilization splints). In severe cases, surgical treatments (jaw joint replacements) may be necessary.

Jennifer Stachel initially treats her NYC patients by eliminating daily activities that can exacerbate the discomfort such as:

  • Hard, chewy or sticky foods such as gum or ice
  • Teeth clenching
  • Wide opening of the TMJ’s
  • Habits such as nail, pencil, cheeks or lip biting
  • Straining your neck to hold your phone or rest your head in your hands while watching tv or working on the computer

Because temporomandibular joint problems are orthopedic in nature, Dr. Stachel utilizes the Trudenta system in NYC to alleviate symptoms for her patients suffering from TMJ disorder.   Trudenta is a comprehensive rehabilitative approach utilizing cold laser therapy, ultra-sound, micro-current and trigger point manipulation techniques.  In addition, she works with NYC physical therapists for severe cases.

Dr. Stachel regularly prescribes a custom-made stabilization splint (bite plate, night guard) to allow the muscles of the TMJ to relax.  She strongly discourages the use of appliances sold in pharmacies.  It is important to see a NYC dentist to properly diagnose the symptoms in order to treat the disorder properly.  Sometimes, it is necessary to adjust the dental occlusion to support the other treatment modalities

In summary, there are multiple treatment options if suffering from TM joint disorders.  Other options include:

  • Regular massages
  • Breathing exercises
  • Yoga
  • Behavior modification strategies
  • Acupuncture
  • Jaw exercises
  • Trigger point injections in the jaw and neck muscles
  • Medications for relaxation or decreasing inflammation

Because of the complex nature of the TM joint, it is very important to consult with a NYC dentist if you are feeling any of the symptoms listed on this page.  Call 212-877-7177 to schedule an appointment in NYC with Dr. Jennifer Stachel.