Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders (TMJ disorders) are problems or symptoms of the chewing muscles and joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull.
Symptoms associated with TMJ disorders may be:
- Biting or chewing difficulty or discomfort
- Clicking, popping, or grating sound when opening or closing the mouth
- Dull, aching pain in the face
- Jaw pain or tenderness of the jaw
- Reduced ability to open or close the mouth
- The disk erodes or moves out of its proper alignment
- The joint's cartilage is damaged by arthritis
- The joint is damaged by a blow or other impact
- The muscles that stabilize the joint become fatigued from overwork, which can happen if you habitually clench or grind your teeth
Simple, gentle therapies are usually recommended first.
- Learn how to gently stretch, relax, or massage the muscles around your jaw. Your doctor, dentist, or physical therapist can help you with these.
- Avoid actions that cause your symptoms, such as yawning, singing, and chewing gum.
- Try moist heat or cold packs on your face.
- Learn stress-reducing techniques.
- Exercising several times each week may help you increase your ability to handle pain.
Read as much as you can, as opinion varies widely on how to treat TMJ disorders. Get the opinions of several doctors. The good news is that most people eventually find something that helps.
Ask you doctor about medications you can use:
- Short-term use of acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Muscle relaxant medicines or antidepressants
- Rarely, corticosteroid shots in the TMJ to treat inflammation
Mouth or bite guards, also called splints or appliances, have been used to treat teeth grinding, clenching, and TMJ disorders.
- While many people have found them to be useful, the benefits vary widely. The guard may lose its effectiveness over time, or when you stop wearing it. Other people may feel worse pain when they wear one.
- There are different types of splints. Some fit over the top teeth, while others fit over the bottom teeth.
- Permanent use of these items is not recommended. You should also stop if they cause any changes in your bite.
TMJ Surgery or Arthroscropy may be needed to correct more extreme cases of TMJ Disorders after a proper consultation with your Oral Surgeon. However, there are plenty of options available prior to surgery as mentioned above, which your Dr. can assist you with.
For arthroscopic jaw surgery, the surgeon inserts a pencil-thin, lighted tube (arthroscope) into the jaw joint through a small incision in the skin. The arthroscope is connected to a small camera outside the body that transmits a close-up image of the joint to a TV monitor.
The surgeon can insert surgical instruments through the arthroscope to perform surgery on the joint, preventing the need for more surgical incisions. This technique is used to diagnose and treat temporomandibular (TMJ) disorders.
During this procedure, the surgeon can remove scar tissue, reshape parts of the jawbone, reposition the disc, tighten the joint to limit movement, or even insert medicine.