A Temporomandibular Joint disorder, TMJ is the joint the connects your lower jaw to your skin and is found on both sides of your head in front of your ears.
It allows your jaw to open and close, thus enabling you to speak and eat.
TMJ disorder is a type of temporomandibular disorder that can cause pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control the movement of your jaw.
The cause of TMJ disorder is often difficult to determine and has different causes.
Moreover, it can be due to a combination of factors like genetic arthritis, clench or grind your teeth, or jaw injury.
However, bruxism or grinding of teeth does not always lead to TMJ disorders.
In most cases of TMJ, pain and discomfort is temporary and can be relieved with the help of self-management or non-surgical treatments.
Surgery is a last resort after different measures have failed to get rid of the pain and discomfort.
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, almost 20 million people suffer from TMJ.
TMJD is often common in women than in men. There are different possible causes and it often makes the diagnosis difficult.
Readout more to learn about the Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment of TMJ.
Causes of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder TMJ
The exact cause of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, TMJ disorder is often unknown. Trauma to your joint or the joint can play a role.
There are also certain conditions that can cause the temporomandibular joint disorder, TMJD. These are:
- Erosion of your joints
- Habitual grinding or clenching of teeth, teeth grinding
- Structural jaw problems especially at birth.
Some other factors are also associated with the development of this disorder however, they are not proved causes of TMJ.
These are the use of orthodontic braces, poor postures that cause strain to the muscles of your neck and face, stress, poor diet, and lack of sleep.
Symptoms of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, TMJD
The signs and symptoms of TMJD can vary and often depends on the severity and cause of your condition.
However, the most common sign and symptom is pain in your jaws and their surrounding muscles.
Other symptoms are typically associated with the disorders like:
The pain you can feel in the face and neck. stiffness in the muscles of your jaw, and limited movement of the jaw.
Moreover, locking of your jaw, clicking or popping sound, and shift in the jaw, changing the way that your upper and lower teeth align, i.e. malocclusions.
These signs and symptoms can show up on either one side or both sides of your face.
However, in case, there is no sound of clicking or popping that you probably do not need treatment for a TMJD.
Diagnosis of TMJD
Diagnosis of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, TMJD depends on the signs and symptoms along with a physical examination of your jaw.
Your doctor or dentist will probably:
Listen to and feel the jaw when your open and close your mouth.
Observe the range of motion of your jaw, and will press the area around the jaw to identify sites of pain or discomfort.
In case, your doctor or dentist suspects a problem, you may need a dental X-ray to examine your teeth and jaw, a CT scan that provides a detailed analysis of the bones of your joint, and an MRI to reveal problems with the joint’s disk or surrounding soft tissues.
In some cases, Temporomandibular joint disorder, TMJ arthroscopy is sometimes needed in the diagnosis.
During this, your doctor will insert a small and thin tube into the joint space along with a camera to view the area and helps in diagnosis.
In most cases, you can treat Temporomandibular joint disorder TMJ Disorder at home with certain self-care practices.
To ease the symptoms of the temporomandibular joint disorder, you can eat soft foods, use ice or cold compress to reduce swelling, reduce jaw movements and avoid chewing gum and tough foods like beef.
Moreover, you will need to reduce stress and use jaw-stretching exercises that help to improve the movement of your jaw.
If the signs and symptoms of TMJ do not improve with self-care, then you need to visit the doctor or your dentist.
Depending on the signs and symptoms, they may prescribe or recommend the following:
Pain medications like ibuprofen, medications to relax your jaw muscles like Flexeril, soma, or valium, medication to help reduce the swelling in your jaw like corticosteroid drugs.
Moreover, they can also prescribe stabilization splints or bite guards (night Guards), botox to reduce tension in the muscles and nerves of your jaw, and cognitive behavioral therapy to reduce stress.
Surgery for TMJD
In rare cases, your doctor or dentist may recommend surgery or other procedures to treat this condition, These procedures are as follows:
Correction of your jaw through dental treatments that will improve your bite and align your teeth.
Arthrocentesis, which will improve fluid and debris from the joints of your mouth. It is a minimally invasive procedure that involves the insertion of small needles into the jaw.
This is helpful in irrigation of the fluids through the joints to remove debris and inflammatory by-products.
Surgery to replace or remove the joint. However, it involves more risks than other procedures and should be considered carefully.
However, these procedures can sometimes make your condition worse. Therefore, it is important to talk to your doctor or dentist about the potential risks of these procedures.
If other procedures do not help, your doctor or dentist might suggest the following procedures:
Injections: Corticosteroid injections into the joint can be helpful in some people.
Moreover, infrequent injecting of botulinum toxin type into the muscles of your jaw can help relieve the pain.
Modified Condylotomy: This addresses TMJ indirectly with surgery in the mandible, however, not in the joint itself.
It is helpful for the treatment of pain and if locking of the jaw is there in the patient.
Non-drug therapies for TMJD include:
Physical Therapy: With exercise to stretch and strengthen your jaw muscles, the treatment might also include ultrasound, moist heat, and ice.
Counseling: It can help you to understand certain factors and behaviors that can aggravate the pain in your jaw, so you can avoid them.
Examples of such behavior are teeth grinding, landing on your chin, or biting your fingernails.
Alternative Medication for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, TMJ
Alternative medications and techniques can help relieve the pain associated with TMJD. These are:
Acupuncture: A specialist in acupuncture treats chronic pain by inserting hair-thin needles at specific locations on your body.
Relaxation techniques: Consciously slowing your breathing and taking deep, regular breaths can help you relax tense muscles, which can, therefore, reduce pain.
Biofeedback: Electronic devices that monitor the tightness of specific muscles of your jaw, can help you practice effective relaxation techniques.
Prevention of TMJD
You cannot prevent TMJD from developing, however, you can reduce symptoms by lowering your stress levels.
It can be helpful to try and stop grinding or clenching your teeth if that is the issue.
Possible solutions for teeth grinding are night guards and taking muscle relaxants.
Moreover, you can reduce your overall stress and anxiety through counseling, exercise, and diet to help prevent teeth grinding.
The temporomandibular joint combines hinge action along with sliding motions. The parts of the bones that interact with your joints are covered with cartilage and are separated by a small shock-bearing disk.
This disk normally keeps the movement of your jaws smooth.
Factors that can increase your risk of developing TMJD are:
- Various types of arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis or osteoporosis
- Injury to your jaw
- Long-term or chronic teeth grinding or clenching of your teeth
- Certain connective tissues can cause problems and can affect the temporomandibular joint.
Lifestyle Changes and Home Remedies
As you become more aware of habits related to tension like clenching your jaw, grinding your teeth, or chewing pencils, the more you can take measures to help reduce their frequency.
The following tips can help you reduce the signs and symptoms of TMJD:
Overuse of Jaw Muscles: Eating soft foods, and cutting them into small pieces, avoiding sticky or chewy food can help reduce the overuse of jaw muscles.
Cold or Heat Compress: Applying a warm, moist, or cold compress on the side of your face can help to reduce the pain.
Stretching and Massaging: Your doctor, dentist, or therapist can help you do exercise that stretches and strengthen your jaw muscles and how to massage the muscles to relieve pain and stress in the jaws.
To Sum, it All
The outlook of TMJD depends on the cause of the disorder. You can successfully treat it at home with home remedies like changing posture or reducing stress.
However, if it is due to long-term or chronic diseases like arthritis, lifestyle changes are not enough. As arthritis can cause erosion to your joints over time and increase pain, therefore, it is important to consult a doctor.
In most cases, you will have to change your lifestyle along with taking certain medications to ease the pain and discomfort. However, surgery is rarely required. It is important to consult your doctor or dentist to know about your options to understand the right treatment for you.