TMJ Pain: Everything You Need to Know
Movement of the jaws when speaking and chewing is made possible by the Temporomandibular Joint. This joint is found in the cheeks (one on each side) connects the jaw and the skull. Any injury to the joint or muscles causes joint disorder or dysfunction, commonly known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder.
Contrary to what most people believe, TMD is not a single disorder but is an umbrella term that represents a group of disorders that affect the joints. TMD is one of the common joint pain among adults, especially women.
What is TMD and Its Causes?
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, also known as TMJ syndrome, is jaw pain caused by a variety of medical problems.
No specific cause is attributed to TMD but is instead a group of factors that can cause the joints to get inflamed and injured. Some of the causes include bruxism (grinding and clenching of the jaw), jaw misalignment, poor posture, stress, and arthritis of the jaw.
What are the Symptoms of TMD?
Jaw pain is the primary symptom of TMJ syndrome. Other symptoms may include:
- Tenderness of the jaw
- Tinnitus or popping sounds in the ear
- Tight and stiff jaws
- Muscle spasms
- Shoulder pain
Where to Go for Treatment?
There is debate as to who should diagnose and treat TMJ pain– dentists or doctors. Both doctors and dentists can diagnose, but it is crucial to visit a medical professional with knowledge of the musculoskeletal and jaw pain. Dr. Allan Fallah has the experience and extensive knowledge of the TMJ and jaw anatomy and can better diagnose and recommend a suitable treatment.
Proposed Treatments for TMJ Pain
No specific cure exists that can get rid of the TMJ pain. A variety of treatment options are, however, available that can help reduce the discomfort. Remember, TMJ pain clears on its own, but when it persists, any of the following treatments can be used:
The dentist will prescribe pain relievers to help with the discomfort. However, in moderate cases, Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs may be used to reduce inflammation.
Antidepressants are also included in the medication package, especially if stress is the cause of the pain. Stress leads to tightening of the facial muscles, which further exacerbates the problem.
Muscle relaxants help with relieving tension on the muscles and joints.
Nondrug therapies can be used to ease jaw pain and relax the muscles such as physical therapy, exercise, and massage. Ultrasound, which involves the use of deep heat helps to reduce soreness and enhance mobility.
- Alternative Medication
Alternative medication techniques work great when combined with other forms of treatment. Some of the alternative medications include biofeedback that uses an electric device to monitor the tightness and specific muscles.
Acupuncture should be done by a specialist trained in the treatment. The therapy involves the use of hair-thin needles in the affected areas.
TENS can also be used either at home or at the dentist’s office. The treatment uses low-intensity electrical current to relax the jaw joints and muscles.
- Home remedies
The dentist may suggest some remedies to use at home, such as ice packs and moist heat. Ice helps to reduce pain while heat relaxes the muscles.
Avoid extreme jaw movements like singing, yelling, or any other activity that requires movement of the jaw. Using a splint can work to keep the jaw immobilized, but you should first discuss it with the dentist before using them. Also, consider switching to soft foods that require less chewing to give your jaw a rest.
Nightguards work great in protecting the jaw from constant grinding and chewing.
- Dental work
At times underlying dental problems may cause TMJ pain. After the assessment, the dentist will replace any dental restorations such as crowns, balance your teeth, replace missing teeth, or correct bite issues.
Surgery is an option when all the treatments have failed to reduce the pain.
Schedule an Appointment
Jaw pain can clear on its own, but when it persists, you need TMJ treatment. Visit Carrollwood Dental Studio for assessment and treatment.