Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) is a group of symptoms identified by the pain caused in the head, face and jaw. These symptoms include soreness in the chewing muscles, headaches, and stiffness or clicking of the joints.
TMJ in most cases is a long-lasting painful condition that reduces the quality of life. Even though patients are aware of the symptoms, they are often misinformed about the possible treatment options.
The problems result from pressure on the facial nerves caused by muscle tension or abnormalities of the bones in the area between the lower jaw and the temporal bone. A hinge joint called the temporomandibular joint connects the mandible (jawbone) with the temporal bone.
TMJ symptoms include:
- Grinding/clenching of your teeth
- High tooth sensitivity
- Regular migraines or neck pain
- Waking up with stiff or sore jaw muscles
- Clicking, popping, grating or locking of the jaw when opening your mouth
- Facial pain
- Facial muscle tension
- Lower jaw asymmetry
- Difficulties opening your mouth
If you experience some of these symptoms, you might have TMJ. You should visit your dentist who will:
- Examine your oral cavity and your jawbone
- Test how you move your jaw when opening or closing your mouth
- Test other jaw movements
- Examine the temporomandibular joint and chewing muscles (for tension, pain, sounds)
- Test how your joint behaves when you are opening your mouth
Your dentist can do an X-ray or scan of your joint and the surrounding area to rule out any other disease that could affect it. Sometimes a CT or even an MRI can be performed to provide a detailed image of the joint’s bone structure.
Thankfully, these are some easy strategies for pain relief for TMJ. You can get rid of some habits that can exacerbate TMJ pain. These are things to avoid:
- Sleeping on your side or belly exerts massive pressure on the TMJ joint. You can actually feel the pressure in your joint when you lie down in those positions. Sleeping on your back is the best position that protects your joints from pressure and pain.
- Using your shoulder to hold the phone to your ear also causes tension to the muscles of your neck and huge pressure to the jaw joint. To avoid this, you should use a headset.
- Chewing gum is another cause of TMJ pain. It tightens your muscles around your jaw. You may experience ear and jaw pain up to two days after chewing gum. You should avoid chewing gum and foods that require a lot of chewing, especially when you experience acute pain.
- Too much talking exerts pressure on your temporomandibular joint and leads to various TMJ problems.
If you have been diagnosed with TMJ, some potential non-invasive treatments can ease your problems.
Here are some examples of conservative treatments:
- Non-steroid anti-inflammatory medication
- Physical therapy
- Muscle relaxers
- Diet change – taking softer food
- Treatment of parafunctions (aimed at teeth grinding and reducing clenching)
- Treatment of orthodontic anomalies, prosthetic treatment
Eight times out of ten, the condition improves after six months without any treatment. Both common and rare TMJ disorders demand treatment due to muscle pain and tension, internal derangement, arthritis, injury, reduced or excessive joint mobility, and birth defects.