Recurrent pain in your jaws and other areas like your neck and shoulders are some of the common symptoms of TMJ disorder. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction are conditions that result in pain and soreness in and around the TMJ. The disorder could affect your ability to speak, eat, chew, make facial expressions, swallow, cause you headaches, and a lot more. Read on to learn more about the different possible causes, symptoms, and treatments of TMJ disorder.
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What Is Temporomandibular Joint?
The Temporomandibular Joint is at the base of the skull and allows jaw movement that’s required for chewing and talking. It’s the joint that connects the mandible to the temporal bone of the skull on each side.
TMJ allows movement in up and down, and side to side directions, making it one of the most complex joints in the human body. Due to this complexity, it can be difficult to treat severe TM joint disease effectively.
What Are TMJ Disorders?
Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ disorder) also known as temporomandibular joint syndrome, or temporomandibular joint dysfunction are a group of conditions that affect the TMJ.
There are different causes of TM joint disease with different symptoms and treatment options. The level of discomfort caused depends on the symptoms and causes of the disorder.
The most common symptoms of TMJD are persistent pain in the jaw with restricted movement. Sometimes, cases of TM joint disease resolve themselves in a couple of months.
How Is TMJ Disorder Diagnosed?
The symptoms of TMJ syndrome could also be caused by other conditions like tooth decay, gum disease, arthritis, or sinus problems.
And so to rule out other conditions, your health history would be requested and a physical exam would be carried out.
The physical exam would involve checking your jaw joints for tenderness or pain, and listening for clicks, grating sounds, or pops when the joints are moved.
The dentist would check for any problems with your facial muscles and access your bite while ensuring that your jaw doesn’t lock when your mouth opens or closes.
To have a proper view of what is going on in your face, the dentist may take facial x-rays to view your jaws, temporomandibular joint, and teeth.
Other tests that may be carried out include an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan or a CT (Computed Tomography) scan.
The MRI scan would show the position of your TMJ discs as your jaws move, while the CT scan would show the bony detail of your TMJ.
In some severe cases, you may be referred to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon for further care.
You may also be referred to an orthodontist to be sure your teeth, joints, and muscles are functioning properly.
One of the most common and obvious symptoms of TMJ dysfunction is pain and soreness that’s felt in the jaw when you move it.
That is not the only symptom of pain associated with TMJD as the patient may also experience headaches or migraine, earache that may spread to the cheeks, neck ache, back pain, shoulder pain, pain in the temple area, general facial pain, mouth pain, and pain that feels like a toothache.
Not all symptoms of pain are from TMJ syndrome and so the doctor would look for other symptoms to confirm the diagnosis.
Another common symptom of TM joint disease is the unusual jay popping, jaw clicking, or grinding sound that occurs when you talk, eat, or open your mouth. This symptom is often painless.
Note that the production of jaw clicking sound amongst others when you move your jaw doesn’t always indicate TMJD as noises around the jaw is quite common for some people.
Sound around the jaw that occurs with other symptoms like soreness and restricted jaw movement are the ones that call for concern.
Other sounds like ringing, buzzing, or numbness in the ears may occur together with earaches, and when this happens it may be suggestive of TMJ syndrome.
Restriction in jaw movement that could prevent you from opening your mouth fully, or moving your jaw freely in certain directions are also symptoms of TMJ dysfunction.
Muscle spasm in the jaw is also a symptom and it comes with pain and limited movement.
Even though the causes are not entirely clear, many factors contribute to the dysfunction of the TMJ and the muscle tightness that lead to the disorder.
Injury to the joint from an accident or direct blow, or injury to your head and neck muscles could cause trauma to the joint and lead to TMJ dysfunction.
Teeth grinding is a common habit and while it may be enjoyable, it has a negative effect.
As you grind or clench your teeth, you put a lot of pressure on your TMJ and overtime could lead to TM joint disease.
Arthritis to the TMJ is an inflammation that affects the joints, tissues around the joints, and other connective tissue associated with the joints. It leads to pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints causing you a lot of discomfort.
Stress can cause you to put the joints under pressure as you tend to tighten your facial muscles and clench your teeth.
Other environmental factors like the nature of a job or hobby can also predispose you to TMJ syndrome. For example, violinists are at a higher risk of having the disorder because they work with the violin, placing it under the jaw regularly.
This puts the jaw under stress and can cause TMJ syndrome.
Treatment for TMJ
1. TMJ Pillow
Teeth grinding and TMJ can be relieved with the use of the correct smart technology pillows that minimize the pressure on your jaw.
These specially designed pillows will also hold your head and neck in the right position, thus preventing the involuntary movements a.k.a bruxism and teeth grinding
The EnVy TMJ Pillow is the best one you can find on the market in 2021 for TMJD and jaw pain.
3. Cold Pack and Moist Heat
You can also stretch your jaw if your dentist approves this.
After applying the ice packs, apply moist heat in the form of a warm towel to the affected side for about 5 minutes.
Repeat several times each day. With Bodyprox, you have an adjustable head wrap for cold and heat treatments of TMJ pain.
4. Avoid Extreme Jaw Movements
Avoid any activity that would make you move your jaw too much. Reduce chewing especially chewing gum, and yawning and avoid yelling or singing or anything that makes you open your mouth wide.
5. Keep Your Teeth Slightly Apart
Doing this helps to relieve pressure on your jaw so try to do this as often as possible. To control teeth clenching and grinding habits, try putting your tongue between your teeth.
6. Practice Good Posture
Placing your phone between your ear and shoulder, or resting your chin in your hands are bad postures. They increase pressure on your jaw and are likely to cause you pain.
7. Eat Soft Foods
Eat lots of soft foods and cut them into tiny bits so you don’t have to chew much. Avoid crunchy foods, chewy foods, or anything that forces you to open your mouth wide.
1. Use of Medications
In some cases, you may be given higher doses of NSAIDS to help soothe the pain and reduce swelling. If you have a habit of grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw, the dentist may give you a muscle relaxant to relax your jaw muscles, or you may be given an anti-anxiety drug to help you with stress.
2. Dental Procedure
For correct balance in your mouth, your missing teeth may be replaced, and crown, braces, or bridges may be used to even out the biting surfaces.
3. Using A Splint or Night Guard
They also correct your bite as they put your teeth in the correct position.
A splint can be worn at all times, while a night guard is to be worn while you sleep.
Other Forms of Treatment
1. Trigger-Point Injections
This form of medication is administered by injecting anesthesia into facial muscles to give relief to pain and soreness. The points of injection are called trigger points.
2. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
In this form of treatment, low-level electrical currents are used to relax the jaw and facial muscles, thereby causing pain relief.
3. Low-Level Laser Therapy
With low-level laser therapy, pain and inflammation would be relieved. Doing this would help you move your neck freely and open your mouth wider.
4. Radio Wave Therapy
Radio waves increase blood flow to the joint, helping to ease your sore TMJ.
Surgery is the last resort to TMJD where other treatment means have failed. The three types of surgery for TMJ dysfunction treatment include; Arthrocentesis, Arthroscopy, and Open-joint Surgery. The type you’ll need depends on the cause of your problem.
Exercises to Help Relieve Pain Due to TMJ Dysfunction
These exercises are recommended for those with TMJ dysfunction as they may help to strengthen jaw muscles, stretch the jaw, increase jaw mobility, relax the jaw, reduce jaw clicking, and promote jaw healing.
It’s best to wait until your pain is better before you carry out these exercises. To avoid aggravating your condition, start small, and improve with time.
Talk to your doctor before you begin and only carry out the exercises when our muscles are relaxed.
1. Relaxed Jaw Exercise
To do this, rest your tongue at the roof of your mouth gently, behind your upper front teeth. Separate your teeth as you allow your upper and lower jaws to come apart.
2. Goldfish Exercise (Partial Opening)
In this exercise, place your tongue at the roof of your mouth with one finger where your TMJ is located.
With the other hand, place your index or middle finger on your chin and drop your jaw halfway before closing it.
One set consists of doing this exercise 6 times, and you need to do 6 sets daily.
Another way of doing this exercise is to place one finger of each hand on either side of your TMJ and drop your jaw halfway and then closing your mouth.
You may feel mild resistance as you do this exercise but it should be painless.
3. Goldfish Exercise (Full Opening)
With your tongue on the roof of your mouth, place one finger on your TMJ and with the other hand, place another finger on your chin.
Then drop your lower jaw fully and then take it back. One set comprises of doing the exercise 6 times and you need to do 6 sets each day.
Another way of doing this is to place one finger on either TMJ as you drop your jaw completely and then up again.
4. Tuck Your Chin In
Hold your hands behind causing your shoulders to be backward and your chest up.
Tuck your chin in until it creates a double chin and remain in that position for 3 seconds. Repeat the process 10 times.
5. Resisted Mouth Closing
With your thumb placed under your chin, slowly open your mouth and push against your chin for resistance. Hold in that position for 3 to 6 seconds before slowly closing your mouth.
6. Resisted Mouth Closing
Use your thumb and index fingers of both hands to squeeze your chin.
Apply pressure on your chin as you try to close your mouth. This exercise helps to strengthen your chewing muscles.
6. Tongue Up
Place your tongue at the roof of your mouth and slowly open and close your mouth.
7. Move Your Jaw from Side to Side
Put an object of 1/4” thickness between your upper and lower front teeth and then move your jaw slowly from one side to another.
At first, you may have difficulty but as it becomes easier, increase the object thickness by doubling it when doing the exercise.
8. Forward Jaw Movement
Put an object of 1/4″ thickness between your upper and lower front teeth. Then move your lower jaw until your lower teeth are in front of your upper front teeth.
When the exercise becomes easier for you, increase the thickness of the object before you begin.
Using specially designed pillows for bruxism, teeth grinding and TMJ disorder helps to provide support and alignment to your jaw, neck, and shoulders. Go for the highly rated EnVy TMJ Relief Pillow for TMJD and Jaw Pain. Alternatively, check out our best TMJ pillows 2021 article.
Other methods of treatment involve medication and special procedures that would be administered by your doctor.