The temporomandibular joint is the joint connecting your lower jawbone to the base of your skull. It allows us to form words and chew food, and open our mouths for breathing. Since this joint is the most frequently used joint in the body, inflammation of the joint can be incredibly painful and negatively impact a variety of other factors. Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, is known as TMJ.
The pain one feels from TMJ is one of the most frustrating conditions to have. It can be jaw pain, ear pain, neck pain, or even a headache and you never know when it’s going to show up. Not only is it painful, it can feel impossible to treat. Fortunately, we can help offer various forms of treatment.
The facts of TMJ
Colgate.com states that more than 15 percent of American adults suffer from chronic facial pain, such as jaw pain, headaches or earaches all of which may be related to TMJ. The disorder disproportionately affects women ages 20-40. Sometimes, it only lasts for a few weeks or months before resolving on its own, but it can often last indefinitely.
So what are your treatment options if you are one of the many who suffers from TMJ? Unfortunately, there is no one treatment that completely relieves the symptoms of TMJ. It typically takes a combination of treatments to help bring some relief.
For chronic TMJ syndrome, a team approach is usually required. This may include a dentist, ENT surgeon, pain specialist, physiotherapist, and a primary care physician. Modalities used to relieve pain and restore the function of the TMJ may include the use of splints, physical therapy, psychological counseling, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, and arthrocentesis.
Medications that may be used to relieve pain may include tricyclic antidepressants, muscle relaxants, and prescription-strength painkillers. Botox® can also be used alone or in combination with other treatments to relieve the muscle spasm and pain. A few self-care tips to help reduce TMJ symptoms include:
- Eating softer foods
- Avoiding foods that cause symptoms
- Minimize extreme jaw movements such as yawning, yelling or singing
- Avoid chewing gum
- Treat pain with heat/ice packs if necessary
- Practicing relaxation techniques to control jaw tension
Seek a professional evaluation
Several conditions may be linked with TMJ. This often makes it difficult to pinpoint the cause of a particular case of TMJ. To determine how best to treat your condition, a complete evaluation is recommended. Your dentist may check the joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty moving.
Your complete medical history may be reviewed, so it is important to keep your dental office record up-to-date. Your dentist may take X-rays and may make a model of your teeth in order to see how your bite fits together. Your dentist may also request specialized X-rays of the TM joints.
Having a TMJ problem is like having a “bum” knee or a “bad” back in that it will require long-term management. That is why it is important for you to find out what you can do to ensure that it doesn’t control your life. Getting on a consistent treatment plan can greatly help you to reduce the symptoms and manage your TMJ.
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