in Goodyear, AZ
Do you have pain near your ears and temples?
Does your jaw click and pop while eating or yawning?
Do you frequently wake up with headaches?
If yes, chances are you may be experiencing Temporomandibular joint pain, or TMJ.
We successfully treat clients through splint therapy, freeing them of their TMJ pain and discomfort.
What is TMJ/TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction)?
The temporomandibular joint connects the skull and the jaw to allow talking, chewing, and yawning in a proper manner. Dysfunction in the join, also known as TMJ, is known as TMD – Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. In this condition, the hinge that connects the lower and upper jaw does not work properly. As a result, it feels like your jaw is popping, clicking, or getting stuck.
TMJ disorder can be a result of a number of things, but the most common causes are as listed below
If the temporomandibular joint is hammered due to an accident such as a punch to the jaw, it can result in misalignment of the teeth. And as a result, the muscles surrounding the joint get inflamed. Trauma can also cause the jawbone to break, which may dislocate the TMJ or the cartilage disc.
Bruxism, the habit of grinding teeth, can result in gum inflammation and muscle spasm. Its symptoms include repetitive use of chewing muscles, changes in the height of the teeth, and teeth misalignment that may dislocate the temporomandibular joint.
Clenching teeth or biting on things such as fingernails, a pen, or a pencil can cause pain due to a constant pounding on the jaw. This may cause TMD in the long run. Stress is known to be the most common reason for clenching and tension in the jaw.
The jaw joint, just like other joints in our body, is prone to arthritis. Osteoarthritis results in slow progressive loss of cartilage bone and formation of a new bone at the joint’s surface. On the other hand, Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes joint inflammation, destruction of cartilage, and eventually joint deformity. Both of these conditions affect the TMJ and contribute to its disorder.
TMJ disorder may also have other causes like cancer, infection of the joint, and bone deformity, which may occur at the time of birth.
TMJ Symptoms and Signs
Here are some common TMJ disorder symptoms:
- Pain & tenderness in the jaw
- Difficulty in chewing and eating
- Popping/clicking of the jaw
- Pain that feels like a toothache
- Headaches, including migraines
- Misalignment of the upper and lower jaw
- Pain in and around your ear
- Locking of the joint
- Blurred vision
- Shoulder pain
- Facial pain
- Pain in the temple area
Since TMJ disorder is difficult to be diagnosed correctly without an examination, you must visit your dentist and discuss the symptoms with him/her. Your dentist may also refer you to an ENT or TMJ specialist to check if you have the symptoms of TMJ disorder.
You may have to undergo one or several imaging processes for your doctor to be sure that you have the syndrome, as listed below:
- Dental X-Ray – It is required to check if there’s a misalignment in the jaw.
- CT Scan – It is required to get a clear look at the joint tissues and bones.
- MRI – It is required to check if there’s a problem with the structure of the jaw.
Below are a few sample x-rays that represent various TMJ conditions. They will help you differentiate healthy TMJ from the TMJ affected with the syndrome.
The course of treatment will depend on your unique condition and symptoms, but here are the main treatment options listed:
During the initial stage of the TMJ disorder, your doctor may suggest medication to relax the muscles and the joint. These medications will help you relieve the pain:
- Over the counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories
- Tricyclic antidepressants to reduce stress
- Muscle relaxants to ease the jaw muscles
To ease muscle and jaw movement, your doctor may suggest non-drug therapies such as:
- Dental Splint – It is a soft but firm device that is placed over the teeth to prevent teeth grinding. It looks like a mouthguard and is usually fitted by a TMJ specialist.
- Physical Therapy – Physical therapy includes some basic jaw stretching exercises that strengthen the muscles. Your doctor may also suggest ultrasound and moist heat and ice.
- Counseling – Proper education about the TMJ syndrome can help you steer clear of the activities that may be aggravating the condition such as clenching teeth, biting fingernails, leaning on your chin, etc.
If medication and therapy do not help, your doctor may suggest TMJ surgery. Surgical methods include:
- Arthrocentesis – It is a minimally invasive procedure that involves injecting fluids into the joint through a small needle to remove inflammatory byproducts and debris.
- Injections – Depending on your condition, you may have to go for corticosteroid injections. Botulinum toxin type A is proven to relieve pain caused due to TMJ syndrome.
- Modified Condylotomy – Modified condylotomy is an indirect treatment since it includes surgery in the mandible muscle instead of the joint itself. It is helpful if you’re suffering from jaw locking and pain.
Home remedies and lifestyle changes are only helpful in getting temporary relief, and hence, can be used in cases of emergency when you can’t visit the doctor. Here are a few effective ones:
- Apply ice or cold packs on the outer surface of the jaw.
- Eat soft foods that do not require much chewing.
- Do basic jaw exercises regularly to prevent locking.
- Manage stress and try relaxation therapies to ease the jaw muscle.