The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects your jawbone to the skull. It allows your jaw to move up and down and side to side, and it’s essential for chewing, yawning, and talking. TMJ disorders occur when one of the joints, muscles, or ligaments that regulate the jaw movement gets inflamed or irritated. The condition can be acute or chronic, resulting in mild or severe pain that can alter your lifestyle. Read on and learn more about the disorder.
What Are The Common Symptoms of TMJ?
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, women are two times more likely than men to experience TMJ dysfunctions, especially between the ages of 35 and 44. This disorder can significantly impact a person’s lifestyle in various ways, including pain or tenderness in the jaw, difficulty opening one’s mouth wide, pain while chewing or talking, locked jaw, alterations in how the teeth fit together, and headaches or earaches.
What Causes TMJ Disorders?
Various factors could cause a TMJ disorder, but some are more common. For example, trauma or injury to the jaw and psychological stress and worry can stiffen, the jaw muscles, making these leading causes of the disorder. Muscle stress from poor posture, particularly in the neck, can also lead to TMJ problems. Other causes include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, which cause inflammation and TMJ damage. In rare cases, some individuals may also have a gene variant of TMJ dysfunction.
TMJ Dysfunction Diagnosis
TMJ is diagnosed through a dental checkup or a patient’s medical history. The doctor checks the jaw, face, and neck during a physical examination for symptoms of TMJ dysfunction, such as discomfort, tenderness, or popping and clicking sounds when you move your jaw.
Additionally, radiographs (X-rays) are used to see the jaw joints and assess the degree of injury. Panoramic X-rays provide a high-level view of your teeth, jawbone, and TMJs. On the other hand, CBCT scans take thousands of photographs of your teeth, jaws, facial bones, and sinuses to give the doctor a clear picture of your facial anatomy.
MRI scans examine soft tissues around the jaw joints. These images depict the disk position, inflammation, and possible jaw locking. Sometimes, your healthcare provider could suggest you seek more medical tests and care from a specialist like an oral surgeon.
Available Treatments for TMJ Disorders
There are numerous approaches to treating TMJ issues due to the wide range of possible causes. These include home treatments, medication, or surgical procedures. Let’s discuss each of them briefly.
You can treat TMJ signs at home with self-care techniques. You can start by eating soft foods and avoiding extreme jaw movements. Additionally, apply moist ice packs to reduce swelling and improve jaw movement by performing jaw-stretching exercises.
Some medications may provide better relief if the home treatments do not relieve your TMJ. To reduce discomfort and swelling, try over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Your doctor may also recommend more potent NSAIDs or other painkillers, such as narcotic analgesics. Antidepressants taken in modest doses can also aid in minimizing or controlling pain. However, only people with a prescription can obtain muscle relaxants, anti-anxiety medications, and antidepressants.
If the medications and home remedies don’t improve your symptoms, your specialist might recommend surgical procedures. Botox injection is an example of such a treatment. These injections treat painful trigger points or chronic teeth grinding. In severe cases, your doctor may advise you to undergo surgery. Procedures may include corrective dental treatment to align your teeth or joint replacement surgery.
Prevention of TMJ
One effective way of preventing TMJ disorders is by doing regular dental checkups. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the American Dental Association, you should take your child for the first dental visit when they turn one or when their first tooth emerges. Regular dental care like this may help prevent the disorder.
The American Association of Orthodontists also recommends taking your children to an orthodontist before they turn seven to determine whether orthodontic treatment is necessary. The first permanent molars and incisors are usually in place by this time. Orthodontics evaluate cross-bites, crowding, and other issues, and these appointments may also play a role in discovering TMJ disorders early on.
If you suspect you may have a TMJ disorder, be sure to consult a trusted medical professional. These disorders are highly treatable, so you should have no difficulty finding the relief you need.