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Exploring the Genetic Aspects of TMJ with Dr. Kelley Mingus

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a vital part of the human body. Also known as the joint of your jaw, it connects the mandible to the skull. It allows for the many movements required for talking, eating, and other activities.

Dr. Kelley Mingus is a well-respected expert in the field of TMJ and dentistry. She has researched the genetic aspects of the disorder extensively and shared her findings. Dr. Mingus offers insights to help understand TMJ and provide the most effective care.

What Are the Common TMJ Symptoms?

On average, about 20% of women and 4% of men have been diagnosed with TMJ. However, many others may not be aware that it’s the cause of their pain. Common symptoms of TMJ include

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw, face, head, ears, and neck
  • Popping or clicking in the jaw joint when the mouth is opened and closed
  • Ear pain or difficulty hearing
  • Neck and upper back pain
  • Headaches
  • TMJ pain often gets worse when talking, yawning, eating, or stress

What Are the Genetic Risk Factors of TMJ?

Dr. Mingus has found that genetic risk factors for TMJ include:

  • Family history—people with a close relative who has TMJ are at increased risk
  • Genes—some genetic variations have been associated with an increased risk of TMJ
  • Medical conditions—other health problems, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, have been linked to TMJ

How Is TMJ Diagnosed and Treated?

Diagnosing TMJ usually involves an extensive exam and history evaluation. Your provider may ask questions about your symptoms and the activities that make them better or worse. A physical exam will likely include feeling the joint for areas of pain, discomfort, and range of motion limitation. A discussion with a dental professional may also be necessary to properly diagnose TMJ.

Once a diagnosis has been made, there are several options for treatment.

  • Lifestyle changes—recommendations may include eating soft foods, avoiding extreme jaw movements, avoiding extreme chewing, and managing stress
  • Self-care—symptoms may be relieved with over-the-counter medication, hot or cold compresses, and oral exercises
  • Prescription medication—your provider may prescribe muscle relaxants and anesthetics
  • Physical therapy—special exercises can help to ease the pain and restore strength, motion, and flexibility
  • Oral splints and mouth guards—these devices can help to stabilize the jaw and protect the teeth from excessive tooth grinding and clenching
  • Injections—corticosteroid injections directly into the joint can help to reduce the inflammation and pain
  • Surgery—for severe cases, surgical options may be considered

What Research Needs to Be Done in Genetic Aspects of TMJ?

Dr. Mingus believes that research is essential in understanding the genetic aspects of TMJ. Researchers could conduct

  • Longitudinal studies—these studies would track the health of participants over an extended period and pinpoint any genetic predictors for developing TMJ
  • Genetic association studies—who is more susceptible to getting TMJ and what genetic variations are present in those individuals
  • Case-control studies—these studies would compare healthy individuals with those with TMJ in order to further understand the genetic components of the disease
  • Functional genomics studies—these studies could identify the role of specific genes and pathways in creating the imbalance that leads to TMJ


The cause of TMJ is not entirely understood, but research suggests that there are genetic components. Dr. Kelley Mingus explores the genetic aspects of TMJ to help provide a better understanding of the disorder and promote better patient care. Continued research is essential to help providers better diagnose and treat TMJ.