What is disc degeneration in the jaw?

Disc degeneration in the jaw refers to the deterioration of the articular disc, a soft tissue structure within the jaw joint. This disc plays a vital role in smooth and comfortable jaw movement, acting as a cushion to allow the jaw to open and close easily. When the disc degenerates, it can lead to a range of uncomfortable symptoms.

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What causes disc degeneration?

Disc degeneration can occur due to various factors, including:

  • Age: Natural wear and tear over time can lead to disc degeneration.
  • Arthritis: Inflammatory conditions like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can affect the TMJ and contribute to disc deterioration.
  • Trauma: Past injuries or jaw trauma can damage the TMJ and accelerate disc degeneration.
  • Genetics: Some individuals may be predisposed to TMJ issues, including disc degeneration, due to genetic factors.
  • Overuse: Ongoing teeth grinding (bruxism) can cause the disc to deteriorate over time.

Symptoms of disc degeneration

Recognizing the symptoms of disc degeneration is essential for early diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Common symptoms may include:

  • Jaw pain or discomfort, especially when chewing
  • Limited jaw movement or difficulty opening the mouth fully
  • Clicking or popping noises during jaw movement
  • Locking of the jaw, making it difficult to open or close
  • Headaches
  • Facial pain
  • Earaches
  • Sleep trouble
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CT Scan for Assessing Disc Degeneration in TMJ

CT scans are crucial in assessing disc degeneration within the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). These detailed images allow our specialists to examine the condition of the joint's discs, identifying any signs of degeneration or structural abnormalities. Understanding the extent of disc degeneration is vital for developing an accurate diagnosis and tailoring an effective treatment plan to address the patient's specific needs. It's important to recognize that while CT scans provide valuable insights, a comprehensive assessment for sleep apnea and TMJ disorders requires a multi-faceted approach. 

In addition to CT scans, our specialists utilize various diagnostic modalities, including thorough clinical assessments, polysomnography (sleep studies), and dental evaluations. Each imaging modality is selected based on the specific clinical context and the information needed to formulate an accurate diagnosis and tailor an effective treatment plan. This comprehensive evaluation ensures a holistic understanding of the individual's condition and guides the most appropriate interventions for optimal outcomes.

Treatments for Disc Degeneration

At the San Francisco Center for TMJ and Sleep Apnea, we offer effective treatments for disc degeneration tailored to address the specific causes and symptoms:

PRF (platelet rich fibrin)

Platelet-Rich Fibrin (PRF) emerges as a promising therapeutic approach to address orofacial disc degeneration by harnessing the regenerative properties of concentrated platelets to promote tissue healing and potentially improve temporomandibular joint function.

Deep tissue laser therapy

Deep tissue laser therapy, utilizing photo-biomodulation, presents a non-invasive method to potentially address orofacial disc degeneration by stimulating cellular repair and mitigating inflammation, offering a therapeutic option for improving temporomandibular joint health.


Orthodontics plays a role in addressing orofacial disc degeneration by optimizing dental and jaw alignment, potentially alleviating stress on the temporomandibular joints and contributing to improved function and comfort.


Medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants, may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms and manage pain associated with orofacial disc degeneration, providing a pharmacological approach to support temporomandibular joint health.

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Relief from disc degeneration

If you're experiencing symptoms of disc degeneration or have concerns about your jaw health, don't hesitate to reach out to us at the San Francisco Center for TMJ and Sleep Apnea. Relief from the discomfort and complications of disc degeneration can be achieved with our help.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to start the journey toward improved jaw health and overall well-being.

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