TMJ disorder is a complex health issue that affects the temporomandibular joint, which connects your jaw to your skull. This condition can cause pain and discomfort in the jaw, neck, head, and face. Left untreated, it could lead to more severe and long-lasting problems, such as hearing loss or vision problems. Fortunately, many effective treatments for TMJ disorder can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. Let’s explore some of the most common treatments for TMJ disorder.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
TMJ disorder can cause jaw pain, discomfort in the jaw joints and muscles, difficulty chewing and speaking, earache, neck pain, and headaches.
The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) connects the jawbone to the skull, allowing us to speak and chew. When working correctly, this joint is smooth and noiseless; however, when it is impaired or damaged, it can lead to jaw pain, possible nausea, or dizziness.
With TMJ disorder becoming more prominent amongst people today due to stress and other factors, symptoms one may also experience include:
- Jaw pain or tenderness.
- Lock jawing.
- Pain around the ear change in bite pattern
- A clicking sound when opening the mouth.
Sufferers of TMJ disorder should seek medical advice as soon as possible to receive appropriate treatment to help alleviate these discomforting symptoms.
Causes of TMJ Disorders
Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD) are a group of painful and debilitating conditions affecting the jaw joint and facial muscles. Common causes can include:
- Teeth grinding (jaw clenching).
- Misalignment of the teeth or jaw.
- Injury to the cheek or face.
- Prior Dental work.
- Poor posture and stress.
- Arthritis and joint inflammation.
- Congenital jaw malformations or disorders present from birth.
When to See a Doctor for TMJ Disorders?
- Severe Pain that Interferes with Daily Life
- Limited Jaw Movement or Jaw Locking
- Hearing or Feeling a Clicking in the Jaw Joint
- Visible Swelling Near the Jaw Joint
- Difficulty Chewing or Speaking
- Headaches, Ear Pain, Facial Pain, or Neck Pain that Does Not Subside
If any of the above symptoms are present, or if your pain persists for more than a few days, it is important to seek medical advice from your doctor or dentist. A diagnosis will help determine which type of treatment is best for you.
Diagnosis of TMJ Disorders
Diagnosis of TMJ disorders can be a difficult process, but with the right steps, it is possible to make an accurate diagnosis:
- First and foremost, a comprehensive medical history should be taken to rule out other conditions causing similar symptoms. As such, the diagnosing doctor will ask questions about your lifestyle and habits that might contribute to TMJ problems.
- Afterwards, a physical exam of the head, face and jaw will also be conducted to identify any irregularities or tender points specific to TMJ disorders.
- Imaging tests, such as X-rays and autoCAT scans, may also be used if necessary.
- Finally, your doctor may suggest a muscle test or an electromyogram (EMG) to evaluate the functioning of the muscles in your jaw.
With this information, the healthcare professional can decide the most effective treatment course for you to follow to relieve TMJ pain.
Treatment Options for Temporomandibular Joint Disorders
TMJ disorder treatment options range from self-care strategies to medication to surgery. Depending on your specific symptoms and diagnosis, your doctor may recommend a combination of treatments. Some of the most common treatments include either non-invasive treatments or invasive treatments.
Stress reduction techniques
Stress is common in developing this condition, so reducing stress can positively affect your overall health and well-being. Taking the time to practise relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation, can help to alleviate stress, promote well-being and reduce muscle tension around the jaw.
Eating soft foods
Eating softer foods helps reduce strain on the joint when chewing or speaking. Stick to soft foods, like mashed potatoes or yoghurt, for meals throughout the day rather than crunchy snacks like chips or hard candy. Also, avoid chewy foods like caramels or gum that require excessive jaw movement.
To ease the discomfort and inflammation of TMJ disorder, your doctor may recommend taking nonprescription drugs like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. They also provide muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatory medications for further relief if needed.
Physical therapy is often used for treating TMJ disorder because it focuses on exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles around your jaw joint.
A physical therapist will also be able to advise on how best to position your head, neck, and shoulders during activities, such as sleeping or remaining seated at a desk for long periods of time—all of which can affect symptoms related to TMJ disorder.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
That method is often referred to as (TENS), a widely recognised and highly effective TMJ Pain Relief treatment option. TENS is a non-invasive, drug-free therapy that uses electrical current to reduce TMJ discomfort. The electrical stimulation sends signals to the temporomandibular joints and surrounding muscles, creating a soothing sensation that helps to decrease TMJ symptoms, including pain and tightness. By blocking pain signals sent to the brain, TMJ patients can experience significant relief without side effects. For those who experience TMJ pain regularly, TENS has been proven to be an excellent long-term TMJ Pain Relief solution.
Occlusal Adjustment or Splint Therapy
Occlusal Adjustment or Splint Therapy is a dental technique that reduces pain in the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ). This therapy drills down to root causes to understand where the pain originates and actively works to relieve it. The treatment consists of creating an acrylic splint that is customised for the patient and placed in the mouth on top of the teeth. Once fitted properly, this splint works to reposition the jaw to relieve pressure points, helping with pain relief. It can be used as an initial treatment or alongside other therapies supporting the healing of active TMJ pain.
Arthrocentesis, also known as joint lavage, is a procedure used to diagnose and treat temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain. This in-office medical procedure involves the insertion of a small needle into the affected joint, usually the jaw or shoulder area. The needle then extracts fluid from the joint to evaluate inflammation and infection. Additionally, sterile saline solution can be injected into the joint as part of arthrocentesis to help reduce pain and inflammation. With this safe, minimally invasive technology, doctors can assess possible underlying issues that may be causing TMJ pain and determine effective treatments for long-lasting relief.
In some cases where other treatments have not successfully relieved symptoms associated with TMJ disorder, surgery may be recommended by your doctor as an option for treating this condition. Surgery typically involves correcting alignment issues within the temporomandibular joint itself or replacing worn components of this joint with prosthetic parts made from biocompatible materials that mimic natural bone and cartilage tissue structures in their function within the body.
Holistic approach for TMJ treatment
A holistic approach to treating temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction is becoming increasingly popular among healthcare practitioners and patients. This approach addresses the entire body, considering physical issues and psychological, emotional, and lifestyle factors that may impact a person’s health. It involves using integrative methods such as:
- Massage and relaxation techniques.
- Nutritional therapies, such as omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and vitamin B6.
- Chiropractic manipulation to restore proper joint movement and alignment.
- Biofeedback to become aware of how stress affects the muscles surrounding the TMJ.
Long-Term routine for management of TMJ
- Adhere to stress reduction techniques
- Regular Exercise and Stretching
- Eating a Healthy Diet
- Avoiding Clenching and Grinding Teeth
- Wearing a Mouthguard at Night
- Regular Visits to the Dentist or Orthodontist for Checkups and Adjustments
What will happen if TMJ is left untreated?
Left untreated, TMJ can cause tremendous pain and further damage the temporomandibular joint. Chronic jaw, neck, and face pain can worsen if not treated properly. It’s safe to say it can also cause:
- Sleep disturbance issues: Many people with untreated TMJ report sleeping disturbances, including difficulty falling asleep or waking up at night.
- Orthodontics issues: Teeth grinding and clenching can cause TMJ-related orthodontic problems, such as misaligned teeth, chipped or cracked teeth, enamel erosion, and receding gums.
- Headache and Migraines: Untreated TMJ can lead to frequent headaches and migraine attacks, affecting the quality of life.
Tinnitus: Individuals with untreated TMJ may experience ear ringing (tinnitus).
Inner ear issue: The inflammation and stress to the TMJ can cause inner ear issues, such as vertigo, dizziness, and balance disorders.
If you think you may have TMJ, it is important to speak with your doctor. The earlier you get treatment, the better your chance of avoiding these potential complications.
TMJ disorder is a complex condition that can be effectively treated once you get an accurate diagnosis and find out what treatment options are available so you can start feeling better again soon!
At Melbourne Dental Sleep Clinic, we understand that the symptoms of TMJ can be uncomfortable, which is why we are dedicated to providing comprehensive treatment plans tailored to your needs. You can rest assured you will get proper care for your TMJ. So don’t wait any longer – choose us for your TMJ treatment today!
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Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
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