While everybody has a temporomandibular joint, when somebody says that they have TMJ, they are generally referring to a disorder of that joint commonly referred to as “lockjaw“.
A disorder in the TMJ is often associated with pain or discomfort. It may be difficult for your doctor or dentist to identify the exact cause of your pain, but there are several potential culprits:
- Jaw Injury
- Teeth Grinding or Clenching
Fortunately, most cases of TMJ can be treated without invasive procedures or operations and is often temporary.
- Jaw pain or tenderness
- Pain in one or both temporomandibular joints
- Aching facial pain
- Locking of the joint that makes it difficult to open or close your mouth
- Aching pain near the ear
- Difficulty chewing
- Popping or grating when chewing or moving your jaw
When You Need a Dentist
TMJ can develop into a disorder if:
- The disk is damaged or deteriorates
- The disk moves out of alignment
- The joint is damaged by injury or arthritis
While these causes are fairly straightforward, there are several other options that will need to be explored by a medical professional in order to ensure that you receive the appropriate care and treatment.
- Family history of arthritis
- Traumatic injury to the jaw
- Chronic teeth-grinding or clenching
- Connective tissue disorders that may affect the temporomandibular joint
- Medications – There are several different medications that may be prescribed to help with the treatment of TMJ. These include pain relievers or anti-inflammatories, tricyclic antidepressants, and muscle relaxants. Pain relievers and anti-inflammatories are used to help reduce the amount of discomfort you are feeling and reduce any swelling that is associated with TMJ. Tricyclic antidepressants have been effective at treating pain, not just depression and are sometimes an option that medical professionals will utilize for pain management. Muscle relaxants allow tensed muscles to relax as well as help relieve any pain. This relaxation may help if the disk for the temporomandibular joint is out of place.
- Therapies – Your dentist may suggest the placement of a splint that can help brace the joint. In combination with splinting therapies, physical therapy can help to strengthen and train the muscles to keep the joint in place and relieve your pain. Finally, counseling may be prescribed to help reduce habits like teeth clenching that lead to TMJ.
- If medications or other treatment don’t resolve your TMJ, your dentist may suggest surgery. Be sure to consult with your medical professional to make sure that you understand all your options and the risks of each.