The temporomandibular joints, also known as TMJ, are among the most complicated joints in the body. Thanks to TMJ, the lower jaw moves up and down, back and forth, and from side to side.
If you're experiencing temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD), then you’re probably keenly aware of your jaw joint. It might be hard to open or close your mouth or you might have generalized facial pain. In many cases, TMJ can be managed at home or with non-surgical treatment. If those don't help, surgery may be an option.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
The exact cause of TMJ disorder isn't always understood, but it's likely that several factors can contribute to it. In some cases, a person might have TMJ pain if they have another condition that affects the jaw or mouth. For example, you can experience TMJ disorder if you grind your teeth regularly or if you have arthritis in your jaw. Chronic conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or fibromyalgia might also contribute to TMJ pain.
An injury to the jaw can also affect TMJ, causing symptoms of TMD. TMD is more common in women than men and often occurs in people under age 40.
Pain, particularly in the jaw, is one of the most common signs of TMD. Some people also experience headaches, earaches, or shoulder pain. It can be difficult to open the mouth and it might feel as if your jaw joint locks when you try to open up.
How to Treat TMJ Problems at Home
Often, treatment for TMJ begins at home, with some simple self-care options. Resting the TMJ by relaxing the mouth and not overextending it when you open your mouth can help relieve pain. Sitting upright when working or driving can also help ease discomfort. You might find that sleeping on your back eases pressure on your jaw.
You might also want to change your diet to help manage TMJ pain. Switching to softer foods and avoiding anything crunchy or very chewy eases the strain on your jaw.
Finding ways to relax can help ease any tension you hold in the jaw, improving your TMD. Hot or cold compresses also provide soothing relief.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options for TMJ Disorders
If at-home options don't solve your TMJ problems, non-surgical treatments can help. You might see some improvement if you wear a custom-fitted oral splint. A mouthguard that helps to prevent teeth grinding might also relieve your pain.
Physical therapy can also help. A physical therapist might teach you jaw exercises to perform to ease tension in the jaw and strengthen the muscles.
You can also try medications, such as ibuprofen or a muscle relaxant to ease the pain. Low doses of certain types of antidepressants have also been shown to help.
If your TMJ pain is connected to a problem with your bite, your orthodontist might recommend braces to straighten a misaligned bite or teeth.
Surgical Treatment Options for TMJ Disorders
Surgery is often the last resort for TMJ disorders and can be an effective option for people who aren't getting relief from other treatments. TMJ surgery can focus on correcting the jawbone or the joint itself.
You don't have to live with TMJ pain. If you’re exhibiting symptoms of TMJ disorder and have any questions about the best course of action, then please contact us today at 212-877-7177 to schedule an appointment.