This disorder is characterized by pain where the jawbone and the skull meet, the temporomandibular joint. This joint is located on either side of the head and just in front of the ears. TMJ causes pain and discomfort associated with jaw movements such as chewing, yawning and talking.
TMJ symptoms include an aching pain in the jaw, face, and around the ear; a clicking or popping sensation when the jaw is opened or closed; and difficulty and discomfort when chewing.
If left untreated TMJ can also cause headaches, an uneven bite, and in some extreme cases, the joint itself will lock, thus rendering a person unable to open or close their mouth.
There are many factors that will lead to TMJ, including arthritis, a facial injury, or teeth grinding, which overworks the muscles of the jaw. Women between the ages of 30 and 50 have the highest risk for developing TMJ, but individuals with arthritis, fibromyalgia, and various sleep disorders are also at a high risk.
TMJ is very common, but symptoms for most people are mild and easily resolved with help from a dentist. In many cases of TMJ a change of behavior is all that is needed to resolve the problem. For those who suffer from TMJ, a dentist may prescribe an overnight bite guard to prevent patients from grinding their teeth while sleeping.
They may also suggest behavioral therapy since stress or anxiety can often cause people to grind their teeth. There are many different kinds of stretches and exercises that a dentist can show to a patient to relieve TMJ pain.
There are many treatments for TMJ that don’t require a medical professional. Some of the at-home methods to relieve pain include finding ways to use the jaw muscles less, such as eating softer foods or cutting foods into smaller portions.
People who suffer from TMJ are also advised to avoid chewing gum and to not open the mouth too wide when chewing. The application of heat and ice to the affected area coupled with over-the-counter pain medications will also help relieve pain and inflammation.
In more serious cases a dentist will take an X-ray or CT scan to better assess the problem. If it is considered serious a dentist may prescribe painkillers or Tricylic antidepressants, which, when taken before bed, have been shown to relieve TMJ pain. A dentist may also prescribe cortisone drugs to relieve inflammation or Botulinum toxin to relieve pain.
If TMJ is caused by jaw misalignment, then a dentist may attempt corrective dental treatment to straighten teeth and correct a person’s bite. These treatments are fairly new and in some cases have made TMJ worse, so this type of treatment is not frequently considered.
Another treatment method is Arthrocentesis, in which a needle is used to inject fluid into the joint to flush out any debris that may cause inflammation. Surgery is very rarely used for the treatment of TMJ.