TMJ disorders are known to affect the jaw joint as well as the muscles that control your jaw. The disorders can be challenging to diagnose and treat due to the complexity of the joint. Millions of Americans experience TMJ disorders at a particular point in their lives. The good thing is that you can receive…
Do I Have TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint of the jaw connects the bone to the skull and is responsible for movements of the jaw.
What is TMJ?
Temporomandibular joint disorders, commonly called TMJ, cause pain in this jaw’s joint and the surrounding muscles that are responsible for movement and function. The cause of most TMJ disorders is often unknown but can be related to jaw injuries, misaligned teeth, arthritis, and genetics. Connective tissue disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, have been linked to TMJ.
The following are some of the common symptoms that patients experience with TMJ:
- Pain in the temporomandibular joints
- Pain and soreness in the jaw
- Face and ear pain
- Pain and difficulty when chewing, yawning, or biting
- A clicking sound when opening the jaw
- Locking of the temporomandibular jaw
- Difficulty with opening and closing the mouth
What to do for suspected TMJ
Patients who believe they may have TMJ may want to visit their dentist for a diagnosis and treatment options. A dentist will often take X-rays and can provide pain medications to give relief from muscle swelling and pain. Patients with bruxism may be prescribed a muscle relaxant or have a customized night guard to stop teeth clenching, which can worsen TMJ symptoms.
There are many options available for the management of symptoms at home. Patients are often advised to eat a soft diet and focus on foods that do not need much chewing and avoid eating foods that would require opening the mouth widely. Patients are also advised to avoid singing and chewing gum and should try to prevent yawning when possible. Changing sleep positions and sleeping on the back rather than the stomach may help as well. It is important to remain aware of what activities seem to trigger jaw pain and avoid them. Patients should try to reduce stress levels as much as possible.
Stretching exercises can provide symptom relief and strengthen muscles. It is recommended for patients to first apply heat to the area before the exercises. Patients should gently pull the jaw apart by using the left thumb under the front teeth and the right index and middle fingers on the lower front teeth. Using ice packs afterward can help to relax the jaw muscles.
Treatment options for severe TMJ
Patients who have severe cases of TMJ that are not relieved from home remedies have other treatment options. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, more commonly referred to as TENS therapy, is an option that provides low-level electrical currents to help relax the muscles of the jaw and face. Acupuncture and trigger-point injections may also be used. Surgery is an option for extreme cases.
Patients with TMJ will often experience pain and difficulty with opening the jaw. The condition will usually improve with rest and mouth exercises, but there are treatment options available. A dentist can help patients decide what course of treatment is best for them.
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