TMJ Problems and How You Can Prevent Them

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Problems are rising in the world today due to the high-stress environments that we live in. TMJ disorders affect the chewing muscles and joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull. There are two matching temporomandibular joints on each side of your head. They are located just in front of your ears.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine:

Many TMJ-related symptoms are caused by the effects of physical stress on the structures around the joint. These structures include:

  • Cartilage disk at the joint
  • Muscles of the jaw, face, and neck
  • Nearby ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves
  • Teeth

For many people with temporomandibular joint disorders, the cause is unknown. Some causes given for this condition are not well proven. These include:

  • A bad bite or orthodontic braces
  • Stress and tooth grinding. Many people with TMJ problems do not grind their teeth, and many who have been grinding their teeth for a long time do not have problems with their TMJ joint. For some people, the stress associated with this disorder may be caused by the pain, as opposed to being the cause of the problem.

Symptoms of TMJ

  • Biting or chewing difficulty or discomfort
  • Clicking, popping, or grating sound when opening or closing the mouth
  • Dull, aching pain in the face
  • Earache
  • Headache
  • Jaw pain or tenderness of the jaw
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Difficulty opening or closing the mouth

 

Exams and Test

You may need to see more than one medical specialist, as TMJ affects different parts of the face. You will need a thorough exam that involves:

  • Feeling the joint and muscles for tenderness
  • Pressing around the head to locate areas that are sensitive or painful
  • Sliding the teeth from side to side
  • Watching, feeling, and listening to the jaw open and shut
  • X-rays or MRI of the jaw

Sometimes, the results of the physical exam may appear normal.

Your doctor will also need to consider other conditions, such as infections, ear infections, or nerve-related problems and headaches that may be causing your symptoms.

 

Treatment

Simple, gentle therapies are recommended first.

  • Learn how to gently stretch, relax, or massage the muscles around your jaw. Your doctor, dentist, or physical therapist can help you with these.
  • Avoid actions that cause your symptoms, such as yawning, singing, and chewing gum.
  • Try moist heat or cold packs on your face.
  • Learn stress-reducing techniques.
  • Exercising several times each week may help you increase your ability to handle pain.

Read as much as you can, as opinion varies widely on how to treat TMJ disorders. Get the opinions of several doctors. The good news is that most people eventually find something that helps.

Ask your doctor or dentist about medications you can use:

  • Short-term use of acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Muscle relaxant medicines or antidepressants
  • Muscle relaxant injections like toxin botulinum
  • Rarely, corticosteroid shots in the TMJ to treat inflammation

Mouth or bite guards, also called splints or appliances, have long been used to treat teeth grinding, clenching, and TMJ disorders.

  • While many people have found them to be useful, the benefits vary widely. The guard may lose its effectiveness over time, or when you stop wearing it. Other people may feel worse pain when they wear one.
  • There are different types of splints. Some fit over the top teeth, while others fit over the bottom teeth.
  • Permanent use of these items may not be recommended. You should also stop if they cause any changes in your bite.

If conservative treatments do not work, it does not automatically mean you need more aggressive treatment. Use caution when considering nonreversible treatment method, such as orthodontics or surgery that permanently changes your bite.

Reconstructive surgery of the jaw, or joint replacement, is rarely required. In fact, studies have shown that the results are often worse than before surgery.

 

 

 

 

Posted: Tuesday July 7, 2015