Considering how hard the human jaw works on any given day, it’s no surprise that TMJ pain is a fairly common ailment. TMJ pain treatments work to address the various underlying problems that can cause this vital joint to malfunction. Depending on the severity of your problem, your dentist will recommend the treatment approach that best addresses your needs.
TMJ Symptoms and Causes
TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint where the jawbone connects to the skull. The face has two temporomandibular joints, one on each side of the head. The TMJs work like hinges that move up, down, backward and forward. A small disk sits in-between the two bones of the joint to absorb shock and allow the joint to move smoothly.
TMJ pain originates in the jaw and muscles that work the joint. Causes for temporomandibular joint disorder can take different forms, including:
- Joint damage caused by injury or a blow to the jaw
- Infection or inflammation
- Damage to the cartilage that supports the joint
- Muscle spasms in the joint
- An erosion of the disc that cushions the joint
- A misalignment of the disc that cushions the joint
Symptoms of TMJ include:
- Pain that radiates from the jaw to the neck, face or head
- Jaw locking or difficulty opening and closing the mouth
- Stiff jaw muscles
- Clicking, grinding or popping when the jaw moves
- Your jaw joint feels tender
- Pain becomes worse when chewing
TMJ pain treatment can vary depending on the severity of the problem. In some instances, pain may go away on its own. If pain symptoms persist, there are several treatment options available.
Treatments for TMJ Pain
Medication treatment for TMJ pain offers an effective way to alleviate recurring pain symptoms. For people experiencing mild pain or mild and random pain, over-the-counter pain relievers may be enough. If these don’t work, your dentist can prescribe a prescription-strength pain reliever. In cases where TMJ pain stems from muscle spasms, muscle relaxants may be prescribed. Another less common treatment is tricyclic antidepressants, which are sometimes used to treat pain symptoms.
Holistic Treatment Approaches
Holistic treatments for TMJ problems focus on using the body’s own self-healing processes to help manage pain symptoms. Holistic approaches have even been used in cases of severe TMJ pain treatment. Here are a few holistic approaches to consider:
- Relaxation techniques – uses deep breathing techniques to relax tension in the jaw muscles
- Biofeedback – allows you to become more aware when jaw muscles start to tighten so you can reduce muscle tightness using relaxation techniques
- Acupuncture – involves inserting small, thin needles at strategic points along the jawline to relieve pain
Therapies for treating TMJ pain address different causes that underlie the condition. Depending on what your dentist finds during your exam, he or she may recommend one or therapies as treatment. Therapies commonly used as treatments for TMJ pain include:
- Physical therapy – encompasses stretching exercises for the jaw muscles and also other treatments that use heat, ice or ultrasound
- Mouth guards – this is a device that’s inserted over the teeth to relieve pressure on the jaw joints
- Counseling – helps you better understand the behaviors and stress factors that contribute to TMJ pain so you can avoid them
If other less invasive treatment approaches don’t relieve your TMJ pain, severe TMJ pain treatments may be warranted. These typically involve surgical approaches that are designed to correct any underlying structural problems. There are more than a few surgical options to consider, including:
- Injections – uses corticosteroid injections to help reduce swelling in the TMJ joints
- Arthrocentesis – involves draining fluids from the joint to remove any inflammatory byproducts and reduce swelling
- Open-joint surgery – typically used when the joint itself require structural repair or replacement
- TMJ arthroscopy – a form of closed-joint surgery where a thin tube is inserted into the joint space to small surgical instruments to be used to operate on the target areas, be they muscle, bone or joint; carries a lower risk of complications compared to an open-joint surgery procedure
As with any medical problem, the sooner you address what’s causing TMJ pain the better. A correct diagnosis is key to finding the right treatment approach so be sure to use a dentist who’s well-trained and experienced in the field. At West Hollywood Holistic Dentist, our team of dentists has over 25 years of experience in the field so you can expect to receive compassionate, competent care. Call us today to schedule a one-on-one consultation with one of our dentists.