Temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, is a disorder that affects the joint that connects the jaw and the temporal bone. It can cause pain in the jaw and the surrounding facial muscles. As a result, patients may experience pain that is aggravated by eating, talking, or even yawning.
Some of the causes of TMJ include injuries to the jaw, whiplash, grinding of the teeth, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and stress.
In addition to pain in the jaw and face, TMJ can also cause the following symptoms:
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Ear pain
- Inability to open mouth to full extent
- Clicking or popping of jaw joint
- Difficulty chewing
- Facial swelling
There are a variety of ways that patients can deal with the pain caused by TMJ. Here are some remedies that you can try.
- Pain relievers – First, try an over-the-counter pain reliever, like Tylenol, Motrin, or Aleve. If that doesn’t help, your doctor or dentist may prescribe something stronger to address your pain.
- Antidepressant medications – Some types of tricyclic antidepressants are also used to treat chronic pain. If your pain is an ongoing issue and it doesn’t respond to pain relievers, this approach might be helpful.
- Muscle relaxers – Muscle relaxers can relax the facial muscles that are inflamed by TMJ, relieving your pain.
- Sedatives – If your TMJ pain is aggravated by grinding or clenching your teeth at night, your doctor or dentist might prescribe a sedative. This will help you to relax your jaw at night and reduce the stress on your temporomandibular joint.
- Bite guards – Bite guards can also help to keep you from grinding your teeth, which can provide some relief from TMJ symptoms.
- Physical therapy – Treatment through physical therapy can include ultrasound, moist heat, or ice. In addition, the physical therapist will teach you exercises that you can perform at home in order to strengthen your jaw muscles and stretch them.
- Education – Education should be included with other pain relief approaches so that you are better able to prevent behaviors that can aggravate your pain. For example, grinding your teeth and biting your fingernails can exacerbate TMJ symptoms.
- Injections – If you have severe TMJ pain that is not responding to other treatment methods, your doctor or dentist may recommend injections to treat your pain. Typically, an injection of steroids is used to reduce inflammation in the temporomandibular joint. Less frequently, Botox injections are given in the jaw muscles to relieve pain.
- Arthrocentesis – This procedure is similar to an injection. A needle is inserted into the temporomandibular joint, and fluid is used to rinse out the joint and remove any debris that might be causing pain.
- Surgery – If your pain is the result of a structural deformity, you may be a candidate for surgery to correct the deformity and relieve your symptoms. This approach is rare, and not often recommended.
If you believe that you may have TMJ, you should first see a dentist for proper diagnosis. There are many other conditions that can mimic the symptoms of TMJ, so it is important to get a professional opinion and diagnosis.
Dr. TJ Bolt is an expert on TMJ. His practice is devoted to finding the source of your pain and relieving it. Call(402) 572-8000 to make an appointment with Dr. Bolt today so that you can find relief for your TMJ symptoms.