The causes of TMJ pain symptoms are often difficult to establish but the pain that goes with temporomandibular disorders may be persistent enough to warrant an investigation. Some people may only experience it on one side, while it may affect both sides in others and it is currently still unknown as to whether the pain emanates from the muscles or the components of the jaw.
What Are The Causes Of TMJ Pain?
The exact causes of TMJ pain are unknown but factors such as genetics, arthritis and previous injuries are thought to contribute to temporomandibular disorders, causing TMJ pain.
Sometimes the discs in your temporomandibular joint are eroded or damaged, causing pain. Pain may also be caused if the jaws are out of alignment with each other, or if a blow to the jaw has resulted in pain.
Making A Diagnosis Of TMJ Pain Symptoms
Your practitioner may want to do an arthroscopy on your jaw, whereby a small tube will be inserted into the jaw space, and a camera placed inside. Doing this enables your practitioner to have a look at the space, and make the necessary recommendations.
Symptoms and signs of a temporomandibular disorder
- Jaw pain or tenderness
- Pain in and around the ear area
- Pain while chewing
- Locking of the joint, resulting in pain when trying to unlock it
- Popping sounds when opening or closing your mouth
- You may also experience a tired feeling in your face
Sometimes your symptoms might also present with other symptoms, such as ear aches, headaches, neck aches, dizziness and ringing in your ears.
You will need to have a thorough assessment to eliminate other conditions such as toothache, gum disease and sinus problems.
Your jaw joints will be inspected for sounds of popping, and your practitioner will assess the mobility of your jaw. Your bite will be looked at, and the strength of your facial muscles will also be assessed. Your practitioner may want to take x rays or request MRI to look at the position of your jaw.
Managing TMJ Pain Symptoms
Over The Counter Medication May Help
Medication to relieve pain and inflammation. Non-steroidal anti inflammatories may provide relief.
Modify Your Diet
Changing your diet to include soft foods that are easier on your jaw may provide you with some relief, and ensure you get a nutritious range of vitamins and minerals.
Grinding your jaw and clenching your jaw does put pressure on your neck, face and jaw muscles.
Become more conscious about where you hold your body tension as you go about your day to day activities.
Learn to keep your jaw slightly open, even placing the tip of your tongue between your jaws to stop it from clamping shut.
Using Temperature To Provide Temporary Relief
Using a cold or warm compress against the side of your jaw that is in pain may bring temporary relief from TMJ pain. It may also help with any swelling that might accompany other TMJ pain symptoms.
Wear A Mouthguard
Wearing a mouthguard can provide relief by acting as a support for your jaw when you are asleep. This stops you from grinding and clenching at night, and gives your jaw muscles some support. Mouthguards are customised to the contours of your face to be as comfortable as possible.
Muscle relaxing medication may help in acute cases while you try to find a longer term solution to your temporomandibular disorder.
Becoming aware of what you do with your mouth and jaw can help to ensure you do not overwork your jaw. Some habits you may want to revise include
- Not biting your nails
- Not biting the inside of your mouth
- Avoid chewing gum
Learning some relaxation practices is also a good idea. You might want to investigate the benefits of yoga or meditation to help you manage body tension better, as this will place your jaw under less stress and exertion. Managing stress in other areas of your life can make a positive change to the way you carry stress in your jaw.
Don’t Neglect Your Dental Health
It may be uncomfortable to open your mouth, and this could make dental care more difficult hen you experience pain from your temporomandibular disorder. Remember
- It’s important to brush and floss twice a day
- If flossing is difficult try using an oral irrigator to ensure you keep your plaque under control
- Consider including an antiseptic mouthwash if there’s a chance you are not able to brush your teeth properly.
Other Interventions To Consider
Sometimes lifestyle changes do not make enough of a difference to improve TMJ pain symptoms. Other treatments may be explored such as
Injections of steroids and Botox might be helpful if you are battling with mobility.
Arthrosentesis involves inserting a needle into the jaw joint in order to allow excess fluid to drain out. Sometimes this is necessary if there is a lot of inflammation and fluid build up and the jaw is locked. This is done under anaesthetic to make it more comfortable.
Surgery of the jaw joint is generally a last resort as it is invasive, but may be necessary if repair to the joint needs to be undertaken. This may be the case if there are tumours present.
When TMJ Pain Self Resolves?
In some cases TMJ pain will go away on its own, however you need to learn some coping strategies to make the time more comfortable. It also helps to know what triggers it so you can minimise future episodes as well as possible.
If you need help managing the symptoms of temporomandibular pain it’s time to speak to a professional. Please contact us for an appointment: