TMJ Disorder

1 What TMJ Disorder?

TMJ disorders causes pain in temporomandibular joint and the associated muscles leading to problems with jaw movement.

Exact causes are difficult to determine because it may be associated with arthritis or mechanical trauma to the joint.

People with this disorder tend to clench their teeth but many people have a habit of doing this without disorder.

Surgical repair may be required in severe cases.

2 Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of TMJ disorder include:

  • pain or tenderness of jaw,
  • pain around the ear,
  • difficulty chewing,
  • locking of the joint
  • and difficulty in opening or closing the joint.

Sometimes TMJ disorders are associated with clicking sound while opening the mouth or chewing and no pain. Then treatment may not be needed. 

3 Causes

TMJ disorders are caused by:

  • if the disk erodes or has improper alignment,
  • Damaged joint cartilage by arthritis and mechanical trauma to the joint.

But in many cases the cause remains unclear.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Making a diagnosis of TMJ disorder is done during physical examination.

The doctor will perform a thorough physical examination in which the doctor would listen to the sound or fell the jaw while opening or closing the mouth, observe the range of movement in the jaw and press on the areas to identify the sights of pain and discomfort.

X- ray, CT scan and MRI may be recommended in some severe cases.

5 Treatment

In some cases, the disorder resolves in its own without treatment but in other cases the following treatment options are available:

  • Medications: Pain relievers, tricyclic anti-depressants, for pain relief only, muscle relaxants and sedatives are used to relieve the symptoms.
  • Therapies: Oral splints are soft and firm device inserted over the teeth to relieve pain. physical therapy which include ultrasound, moist heat and ice application over the joint helps a lot.
  • Surgical and other procedures: Arthrocentesis is a procedure which involves insertion of needles into the joint to remove fluid and debris. Injections of corticosteroids or botulinum toxin to relieve pain associated with TMJ disorders. If the pain does not resolve by conservative treatment, then doctor may recommend surgical repair or replacement of the joint. 

6 Prevention

Preventive measures of TMJ disorder are:

  • avoid chewing gum,
  • avoid biting pencils or fingernails,
  • avoid food that is difficult to chew,
  • following relaxation techniques,
  • maintaining proper posture
  • and doing regular jaw exercises. 

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

The following alternative remedies may help to alleviate symptoms of TMJ disorder:

  • Stretching and massage: The doctor may recommend some exercises that stretch and strengthen the jaw uscles and may also show the ways of massaging muscles.
  • Heat or cold: Applying warm, moist heat or ice to the area of siorder may decrease the symptoms.
  • Some additional alternatives include: Accupuncture which includes insertion of thin needles into specific locations of the body to treat pain, slowing breathing and talking deep regular breaths may relax the muscles and use of special electronic devices that monitor the tightness of specific muscles. 

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Some of the lifestyle changes required after acquiring TMJ disorder include:

  • Avoid overuse of jaw muscles: Eating soft foods or small cut pieces of food may help relieve tension of muscles. Avoid sticky food like chewing gums. 

9 Risks and Complications

TMJ disorder has the following risk factors:

  • Gender: Women are more likely to have this disorder then men.
  • Age: TMJ disorder occurs more in people within the age of 20-40 but it may occur at any age.

Common complication is complete locked jaw and unable to open or close mouth.

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