Have you ever experienced sharp pain in your neck and jaw? How about waking up with sore muscles in your face and jaw? You might have TMJ, or temporomandibular joint syndrome.
What is TMJ?
TMJ is a condition involving the temporomandibular joint in your jaw. This joint acts as a hinge connecting your skull to the lower part of your jaw, and it allows you to speak, chew, and move your mouth in various ways. If this joint is injured, damaged, or becomes infected, you can develop a condition called TMJ, more commonly known as lock jaw. There is a great deal of pain associated with this condition if it is not properly diagnosed and treated, so knowing what symptoms are will be key to treating and reducing potential complications. Knowing the facts about TMJ will allow you to diagnoses, treat, and overcome the pain associated with this disease.
Symptoms of TMJ
Some more commonly known symptoms associated with TMJ include:
- Pain in or around the ear
- Pain around the jawline
- Tenderness in the jaw; sore jaw muscles
- Jaw pain that is more prevalent right in the morning or toward late afternoon
- Discomfort when biting, chewing, or yawning
- Difficulty opening and closing the mouth
- Clicking or popping noises associated with opening and closing the mouth
- Sensitive teeth that cannot be traced to other dental issues
Recognizing the symptoms of TMJ and getting in to your doctor for an early diagnosis will be critical for successful treatment.
When to see your doctor
You should seek the attention of medical and dental professionals if you are experiencing persistent pain and tenderness in the jaw and face. Your medical care team can discuss options for treatment and relief from pain while you are recovering.
Causes of TMJ
The temporomandibular joint provides a hinge-like action; the delicate bones in that joint are covered with cartilage and protected by a shock-absorbing disk that help facilitate movement. This mechanism fails to work properly when:
- The disk erodes or moves out of proper alignment
- The cartilage becomes inflamed or damaged by arthritis
- The joint is damaged by a blow or other impact to the face
Injuries, certain connective tissue disorders, and damage from arthritic inflammation are all factors in the development of TMJ.
How TMJ is diagnosed
If you suspect that you have TMJ, it is important to make an appointment with your dentist to discuss your symptoms and find a proper course of treatment. He may listen to and feel your jaw as you open and close your mouth, observe the range of motion that your jaw is capable of, and use pressure points to see where the origin of your pain is.
In some cases, it may be necessary to undergo a series of x-rays, a CT scan, or even an MRI to determine the cause of the problem in order to suggest an accurate course of treatment for TMJ. Arthroscopy is also used in the diagnosis of TMJ–in this procedure, a small, thin tube is inserted into the joint space, and a camera is then inserted to view the area in hopes of reaching a conclusive diagnosis.
Treatment of TMJ
Some people are able to recover from symptoms of TMJ without formal treatment. If your symptoms persist, however, it may be time to make an appointment to talk to your dentist about treatment options. Some treatment options for TMJ include:
Medication options exist for the treatment of TMJ; they allow a non-invasive way of relieving pain while the body is allowed to heal. Medications can include:
- Pain-relievers and anti-inflammatories: These could be over the counter or prescription strength varieties, depending on the severity of your pain
- Tricyclic antidepressants: these are used for relief from bruxism and stress
- Muscle relaxants: Most often used to relieve pain from muscle spasms associated with TMJ
A compilation of medication and physical therapies has proven quite effective in treating TMJ. Some of these physical therapies and oral devices used in treatment include:
- Oral splints and occlusal appliances: Worn to help reduce muscle tension and to prevent damage to teeth
- Physical therapy: These exercises will help to rehabilitate stressed muscles, provide relief from stress and tension, and bring the jaw back into proper alignment
- Counseling: This type of therapy helps you to understand the reason behind some of the muscle tension and pain so that you can avoid the behaviors that aggravate TMJ
- If other methods of treatment are not working, your dentist may recommend that you undergo a surgical procedure to help relieve pain.
An arthrocentisis is a procedure in which small needles inject fluid into the joint in order to irrigate and flush out debris and inflammatory material that contribute to TMJ.
- Injections of cortisone have been proven effective in helping mobility and helping to reduce joint inflammation.
- In an arthroscopy, a camera is inserted into the joint via a long, catheter-like tube to facilitate surgical procedures that need to be performed. This type of surgery can not only reduce discomfort and speed up recovery time, it will not leave a patient with any visible scars.
- A modified condylotomy is a more direct surgical procedure involving surgery on the joint and the mandible. It is helpful if locking and severe pain are experienced.
- Open joint surgery is typically a last resort, as it comes with the most potential for complications. Other options for treatment should be considered before undergoing this type of surgery, as recovery can be quite uncomfortable as well.
Dr. Bruce Vafa DDS.: The best dentist in town
If you are tired of suffering from TMJ symptoms and all the discomfort that they cause, perhaps it’s time to contact the best dentist in town. Dr. Bruce Vafa DDS. can provide a comprehensive examination and evaluation of your mouth and jaw and offer real, effective solutions for your discomfort. Restoring the health of your mouth, teeth and gums is priority, and quality care is his commitment to you. Don’t hesitate; make an appointment today to relieve your discomfort and regain the health of your mouth and jaw once more. Contact us today for more information. A healthy, vibrant smile is in your future!