TMJ is the abbreviation for the joints on each side of the face where the lower jaw connects to the head. It is also sometimes used to describe problems with those joints. If you’ve ever been diagnosed with TMJ disorder, you may already know what it feels like. If not, you may be experiencing the symptoms now and you’re not sure what is wrong.
How is TMJ disorder treated? Can it be permanently cured? Learn the answers to these questions and more in this overview of TMJ.
What is TMJ?
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, where the lower jaw connects to the skull at each side of the face. If you put your fingers in front of your ears and open and close your mouth a few times, you should be able to feel your TMJ working. It is a hinge type of joint as it primarily allows for up and down movement and some side to side movement.
What is TMJ Disorder?
When the joint becomes irritated, inflamed, or misaligned, it is considered to be TMJ disorder. TMJ symptoms include:
- Pain in the jaw.
- Pain in the temporomandibular joints.
- Pain when chewing.
- Tension in the facial muscles.
- Ear pain.
- Popping or clicking sounds when opening and closing your mouth.
- Limited movement of your jaw.
- Swelling of the face and jaw.
- Headaches, especially in the temple region of the head.
- Pain in the neck.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
TMJ disorder can occur due to a variety of causes:
- Injury. An injury or blow to the face or show can cause misalignment of the TMJ.
- Excessive chewing. Chewing a lot for long periods of time can put excess strain on the TMJ.
- Chewing something hard. Chewing on something particularly hard or chewy can put strain on the TMJ and cause irritation of the joint.
- Arthritis. Arthritis is a condition affecting the joints, which can include the TMJ.
- Autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases can cause excess inflammation in the body, which may include the TMJ.
How is TMJ Disorder Treated?
There are a few different ways to treat TMJ disorder and flare-ups:
- Apply ice. Ice reduces swelling and inflammation, which may relieve pain.
- Rest the jaw. Try to avoid chewing, talking, singing, or other movements of the jaw.
- Take anti-inflammatory pain relievers. Pain relievers like ibuprofen have anti-inflammatory properties that can relieve TMJ symptoms.
If none of the above provide relief of your symptoms, your dentist may provide the following additional TMJ treatments:
- Bite splints. A bite splint helps to stabilize your jaw so that it moves in proper alignment, allowing it to heal.
- Mouth guards. If your TMJ occurs because you grind your teeth or clench your jaw, your dentist can provide you with a custom mouth guard to wear at night that absorbs the force and takes the strain off your jaw.
- Stretches. There are stretching exercises you can do to relieve pain and restore range of motion in your jaw.
- Muscle relaxers. Prescription strength muscle relaxers may provide relief of TMJ symptoms.
Will I Ever Experience Permanent Relief of My TMJ Symptoms?
If you have TMJ symptoms that don’t subside with the above treatments, or if your symptoms keep coming back (flare-ups), surgical treatment may be in order. The joint may need to be rebuilt from the inside in order to work properly. Surgery may provide a permanent cure of your TMJ disorder.
Who Treats TMJ Disorder?
If you’re experiencing symptoms of TMJ disorder, the first person to call is your dentist. Dentists have extensive knowledge of the anatomy of the jaw and the relationship between your jaw and your teeth. R. Renan Williams, DDS provides treatment for TMJ disorder that can provide lasting relief of your symptoms. We make it our goal to restore your range of motion and give you back the ability to eat the foods you love without pain.