Temporomandibular Joint

Treatment of Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)

Do you frequently experience headaches, earaches, facial pain jaw lock or jaw soreness? Do you sometimes have difficulty chewing or opening your mouth? These issues could be related to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and its muscles. This condition is known as temporomandibular disorder or TMD. The symptoms of TMD can be mild or severe. 

While some patients become totally incapacitated by this condition others are able to function normally. This condition commonly affects women.

Common signs of TMJ include:

  • Soreness or pain in the jaw, face and ear
  • Difficulty or pain when chewing
  • Painful popping or clicking jaw
  • Frequent headaches
  • Trouble closing and opening the mouth
  • Jaw locks or if teeth do not totally come together when chewing or biting.

In case you experience the symptoms mentioned above, you should immediately get in touch with your local NoFrills Dental practice.

Signs and symptoms

A TMD is a condition, not a specific disease. Temporomandibular disorders can have many different signs and symptoms, from mild to severe. Some patients may have symptoms but are still able to function fully. TMDs appear to be more common in women. Specific symptoms may include:

  • pain in or around the ear
  • tender jaw muscles
  • clicking or popping noises in the jaw
  • difficulty opening or closing the mouth
  • pain when yawning or chewing
  • jaw joints that feel as if they are “locked,” “stuck” or they “go out”
  • headaches

What causes TMD?

TMD is linked to various conditions which makes it hard to establish the exact cause of TMD in individual patients. Conditions linked to TMD include:

  • Injuries to the head or jaw
  • Diseases affecting the joints or muscle like arthritis
  • Stress
  • Tooth grinding

You need to undergo a comprehensive examination so as to establish the exact cause of your condition and how it can be treated. Your dentist will examine your muscles and joints for soreness, popping, clicking or trouble moving. Your dentist will also evaluate your medical history hence ensure your records are updated. X-rays may be needed for further analysis. Your dentist may also create an impression of your mouth and teeth to check how your teeth fit together when you bite.

How the jaw joints and muscles work

There are muscles and joints on each of your jaws. These muscles and joints help in the opening and closing of the mouth. The joints enable you speak, chew and swallow by allowing movement in various directions. One of the most complicated joints in your body is the temporomandibular joint. There are two temporomandibular joints –one of each side of the jaw. These two joints are supported by muscles, tendons, ligaments and jaw bones. Anything that intereferes with the functioning of any of these parts causes pain.  

how the jaw joints works
Close-Up of TMJ

TMD Treatment

In some patients TMD go away without any treatment. However for other patients the disorders may recur or worsen with time.  There is no cure for Temporomandibular disorders and treatment is meant to control the disorders. Your dentist may prescribe treatment or refer you to a dental specialist or physician.

TMD can be managed in a number of ways. The efficacy of treatment usually depends the combined efforts by patients and dental team in establishing what is effective in relieving pain and symptoms.

Sometimes your dentist may recommend a stepwise treatment plan such that you begin with the simple treatments as you progress towards the more complex ones. Specialist usually endorse the “Less Is Often Best” TMD treatment approach.

 What should you do?

  • Eat softer foods and avoid food causing TMD symptoms
  • Limit activities that require too much jaw movements like yawning, singing or screaming.
  • Do not chew gum
  • Use heat or a cold compress on areas that hurt.
  • Practice how to relax to minimize tension in the jaws. You can try meditation.

Your dentist can suggest these practices to relieve TMD symptoms:

  • Medication to minimize pain, swelling or to help you relax.
  • Exercises to make your jaw muscles stronger.
  • Bite guard or night guard to minimize teeth grinding and clenching.

Sometimes your dentist may need to reshape or adjust some of your teeth to make your bite even. Your dentist could also recommend orthodontic treatment.

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