The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the crux joint between the jaw and the skull. It's what lets you perform the mouth opening and closing. When this joint isn't working correctly, it can cause much pain and discomfort. This condition is called TMJ disorder or TMD.
TMJ/TMD stands for "Temporomandibular Joint Disorder". This is actually a category of disorders related to the jaw that is marked by jaw pain or stiffness. Due to symptoms and causes varying greatly, diagnosis of this disorder can be a struggle sometimes.
There are several treatments for TMJ disorder, depending on the severity of your symptoms. For more severe symptoms, you might need to visit a specialist dentist like Joshua M. Ignatowicz, DMD, DICOI at Joshua M. Ignatowicz DMD & Associates to consult and discuss your case.
TMJ and TMD Symptoms
Symptoms of TMJ/TMD generally affect the jaw, but you can have symptoms throughout the face and head. Some of these symptoms include jaw pain or stiffness, jaw locking or movement limitation, clicking or grating when the jaw moves, and misalignment between the upper and lower teeth. In addition, you could experience pain radiating through the face and neck, ear pain, blurred vision, dizziness, vertigo, and headaches as well.
Causes of TMJ and TMD
There are many causes of TMJ/TMD. Some are habitually-related and others are causes that you do not necessarily have control over. For example, habitual causes include poor posture and excessive gum chewing. Causes that you cannot consciously control include teeth or jaw misalignment (malocclusion), bruxism (teeth grinding), stress and anxiety, arthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders, and the use of orthodontic equipment.
Diagnosis of TMJ and TMD
Due to causes varying, there may be several types of diagnostic evaluations completed before this disorder can be officially diagnosed and treated. This generally begins with a consult, examination, and review of medical history. Our dentist may then refer you to a specialist who would then request follow-up testing, such as an MRI. This diagnostic process is more so intended to rule out other disorders rather than confirming a TMJ/TMD diagnosis, since the diagnosis is hard to determine.
TMJ and TMD Treatment
Once you have a diagnosis, you can consult with our dentist to develop a treatment plan. This may include both at-home and professional treatment. At-home treatments would include habit and diet changes as well as exercises and stretches for the jaw. For example, our dentist may recommend using ice or over-the-counter pain medication to reduce swelling, self-massage, relaxation techniques, essential oils, and/or avoiding hard or chewy foods.
Professional treatment can involve equipment, medications, and surgical procedures, though surgery is reserved for the most extreme cases. Dental equipment commonly used in the treatment of TMJ/TMD includes splints and nightguards which help to realign the jaw and prevent teeth grinding.
Medications that our dentist may prescribe include muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatories, steroid injections, nerve pain medication, and opiate pain medication. Because TMJ/TMD can have roots in stress and anxiety, a treatment plan consisting of anti-depressants, benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety), and sleep aids may also be used. Our dentist may recommend certain therapeutic options like botox treatment, acupuncture, physical therapy, biobehavioral management (ex. CBT), and mental health therapy (for stress).
Surgical procedures are saved for more severe cases. Some of the most common procedures include arthrocentesis, arthroscopy, and open-joint surgery. Arthrocentesis is fluid injection into the jaw. This flushes out any inflammatory byproducts and reduces jaw pressure to alleviate pain and swelling. Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure done through a small cannula which involves scar tissue removal, joint reshaping, and medication injection. Open-joint surgery is the most invasive and involves bone or tissue removal or reshaping.
For more information on TMJ/TMD and its treatment, contact Joshua M. Ignatowicz DMD & Associates at 702-473-5100 now.
Can TMJ Disorder Go Away Without Treatment?
In some cases, TMJ disorder will go away on its own. You may not need treatment if your symptoms are mild and don't last long. However, you may still need to do some quick remedies at home to help relieve your symptoms. You can use ice or heat to help reduce pain and swelling in your jaw.
To use ice, wrap a gel pack or a bag of frozen peas in a towel for a couple of minutes. While for heat, apply a heating pad to your jaw for 10-15 minutes at a time. You can also take a warm shower or bath to help relax your muscles. Do this several times a day, as needed.
If your symptoms are more severe or don't go away, you will likely need treatment from a healthcare provider. Treatment can help relieve your pain and improve your jaw function.
How Long Does TMD Take to Heal?
The length of time it takes for TMD to heal varies from person to person. For some people, symptoms may go away in a few weeks with home treatment. For others, it may take months or even years. Some factors can affect how long it takes for your symptoms to go away, such as:
||The severity of your symptoms: more severe symptoms may take longer to go away
||The cause of your TMD: if the cause is unknown, it may be more challenging to treat
||Your overall health: if you have other medical conditions, it may take longer to treat your TMD
||Your age: children and adolescents may recover more quickly than adults
If you have TMD, getting treatment as soon as possible is essential. The longer you wait to get treatment, the longer it may take for your symptoms to go away.
What Should You Not Do When You Have a TMJ Disorder?
There are a few things you should avoid doing if you have TMD:
Don't Chew Gum
Chewing gum can stress your jaw, making your symptoms worse. If you need to chew gum, choose sugar-free gum that's soft and doesn't require much chewing. Hard foods (like candy or nuts) can also be tricky to chew and may worsen your symptoms. Cut these foods into small pieces so they're easier to eat.
Don't Clench or Grind Your Teeth
Clenching or grinding your teeth (bruxism) can stress your jaw and worsen your symptoms. If you clench or grind your teeth at night, your dentist may recommend wearing a mouthguard to protect your teeth.
Don't Sleep on Your Stomach
Sleeping on your stomach can stress your neck and jaw, worsening your TMD symptoms. Try sleeping on your back or side instead.
If you have TMD, avoiding these activities can help you find relief from your symptoms.
Schedule a TMJ Appointment Today!
You can visit Joshua M. Ignatowicz DMD & Associates or call us at 702-473-5100 to book an appointment for TMJ treatment in Henderson today!