TMJ Dysfunction, Symptoms and Treatment – Why TMJ is a Total Pain in the Jaw!
TMJ dysfunction is, quite literally, a pain in the jaw. Although a treatable condition, TMJ dysfunction is incredibly painful and debilitating.
TMJ stands for temporomandibular (TM) joints. TMJ disorders result in problems with the jaw joint and/or the muscles surrounding the jaw.
What causes TMJ dysfunction?
The cause of TMJ dysfunction can be difficult to pin point. Jaw pain associated with TMJ disorders can be injury related, arthritic or genetic. Consistent teeth grinding or jaw clenching can also be a culprit. It is possible that all or a combination of the above can be to blame for this painful condition.
TMJ symptoms: what are they?
The following symptoms are usually associated with TMJ dysfunction:
- Jaw pain and discomfort
- Clicking or popping jaws
- Aching pains around your ears
- Swelling in either side of your face
- Jaw locking – when it is difficult to open or close your mouth
- Difficulty chewing
- Headaches or muscle spasms
TMJ treatment: what is available?
If you are experiencing any TMJ symptoms, a visit to your trusted dentist is the first step towards finding a solution.
Your dentist will determine if TMJ dysfunction relates to disk erosion, whether the joint is damaged or if jaw pain is affected by arthritis. In some cases, an X-ray will be required.
Short term TMJ treatment options to alleviate jaw pain include:
- Applying heat and cold packs
- Limiting jaw movement
- Avoiding hard foods that require repetitive chewing
- Medications such as anti-inflammatories.
The above TMJ treatments are only short-term fixes, and while TMJ dysfunction sometimes resolves on its own, there are times when further dental care is required. This may include:
- Mouth guards to fit over your teeth at night when clenching appears to be the culprit.
- Heat treatment; applied to alleviate jaw pain and improve movement.
- Injections, radio wave therapy or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) to relieve muscle pain.
The last option for TMJ dysfunction – although it is not common – is surgery. Surgical treatment for jaw pain depends on the severity of the case, but is usually a last resort after other TMJ treatments have not been successful. This surgery is performed under general anaesthetic where an oral surgeon will cleanse the joint, remove any tissue and reposition the disc if necessary.