The temporomandibular joint acts as a sliding hinge that connects your jawbone to your skull. You have one of these joints on each side of your skull. A TMJ disorder (TMD) causes pain in both the jaw joint and the muscles that control the movement in your jaw.
What Causes TMJ?
A TMJ disorder can be caused by a combination of different factors, including:
In some cases, people with bruxism, those who clench or grind their teeth, can experience jaw pain. Other times, those who habitually clench or grind their teeth will never develop TMJ disorder.
Symptoms of a TMJ Disorder
There are a variety of signs and symptoms that may indicate that you are suffering from a TMJ disorder; these symptoms include:
Pain in one and/or both temporomandibular joints
Pain in the jaw
Tenderness of the jaw
Aching pain in your ear or around it
Pain while chewing or difficulty chewing
Aching pain in the face
Difficulty opening or closing your mouth, locking of the temporomandibular joint
If you have a TMJ disorder, you may also notice a grating or clicking sensation each time you chew or open your mouth. Keep in mind; if you do not have any pain or limitation to the movement of your mouth related to the jaw clicking, then it is unlikely that you need treatment for a TMJ disorder. But if there is no pain or limitation of movement related to your jaw clicking, you probably do not need treatment for a TMJ disorder.
Treating Symptoms of a TMJ Disorder
For some people, the symptoms of a TMJ disorder will clear up on their own without requiring any treatment. If your symptoms are persistent, you will need to visit your doctor for recommended treatment options; some of these treatments may include medications such as:
Pain relievers and anti-inflammatories. If an over the counter medicine was not enough to relieve your TMJ pain, then you may be prescribed a stronger pain reliever for a limited time. An example of this would be prescription-strength ibuprofen.
Muscle relaxants. These may be prescribed for use for a few days or a few weeks to help relieve muscle spasms and the resulting pain caused by the TMJ disorder.
Botox. This can be injected into the facial muscles afflicted with soreness and discomfort, to relieve the TMJ and jaw tension.
Nondrug options for TMJ disorder pain relief include:
Oral splints/mouth guards/occlusal appliances. People who have jaw pain can wear a soft or firm device that is inserted over the teeth for pain relief, although the reasoning behind why this is beneficial is not fully understood.
Physical therapy. This includes exercise to strengthen and stretch your jaw muscles as well as moist heat, ice, and ultrasound to help relieve discomfort.
Counseling. With education and counseling, you can better understand the behaviors and factors that may lead to aggravating your pain. This will help you to avoid them.
For more severe cases, there are surgical options that can alleviate pain caused by TMJ disorders. Your doctor will be able to determine what the best course of action for your treatment is. If you unable to open or close your jaw completely or you are experiencing persistent tenderness or pain in your jaw, be sure to seek medical attention from a TMJ specialist at South Hills Dental Arts for treatment options.