Are you having an acute pain in near your jaw area? Do you have a difficulty opening your mouth? Do you have difficulty moving your jaw or chewing food lately? If yes, you could be having problems with your temporomandibular joint.
You might be wondering that, what this temporomandibular joint is, right now, aren’t you? Well, temporomandibular joint (TMJ), as the name suggests, is a joint that joins the mandible to the temporal bone of the skull. Hmm… now, what is this mandible and temporal bone? A mandible is nothing but your lower jaw, and temporal bone is a bone that is located at the side of your skull, right in front of the ear. This temporomandibular joint exists on both sides of your jaw, and they are very flexible in nature. It is due to this flexibility you can move your jaw side to side, up and down smoothly, as well as talk, chew, and yawn. When there is any damage caused to these joints, you will have various types of jaw problems, known as temporomandibular disorders (TMD) for which you will need to have TMJ treatment.
What causes temporomandibular disorder
Although there is no concrete proof of what causes TMD, dentists all over think that symptoms arise from problems with the parts of the temporomandibular joint or the muscles of the jaw. An injury, such as a whiplash or heavy blow, to the jaw, muscles of the jaw, or temporomandibular joint can cause TMD. Other allegedly causes include:
- Presence of rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis in the TMJ
- Clenching or grinding teeth
- Dislocation of disc or soft cushion between the socket and ball
- Mental stress that cause a person to clench teeth, tighten face and jaw muscles
Let us look at the symptoms of TMD
People with temporomandibular joint disorders experience acute pain in the jaw, which can be momentary or last for years. TMD is most often found in people who are aged between 20 and 40. Further, it has been found that women are more likely to have TMD than men. So much for the facts, now let us proceed with the symptoms.
- Pain or weakness in the jaw joint area, face, neck and even shoulders
- Pain near the ear when you speak, chew, or open your mouth
- Cannot open the mouth wide
- Popping, grating, or clicking sounds in the jaw joint while chewing, or when opening or closing your mouth
- Problem chewing
- Swelling on the side of the face
- Headaches, toothaches, upper shoulder pain
- Frequent dizziness
- Earaches and ringing in the ears
What to do if you have TMD
If you feel any of the above symptoms, the right thing to do is get it diagnosed, and the right person to get it diagnosed is your dentist! If you go back to the previous point, the symptoms, you will notice that most of the symptoms are related to the jaw (of course, TMD is jaw problems). Therefore, your dentist is the right person whom you can visit to get TMD diagnosed. Your dentist will look into your medical history, and conduct a physical examination in order to ascertain the cause of your symptoms.
Your dentist will carefully examine your joints for pain or weakness; look for restrained jaw movement; listen to various sounds during jaw movement and examine jaw and bite muscle function. To diagnose, your dentist may also take panoramic X-rays of your jaw. These X-rays help dentist to see your entire jaws, joints, and teeth, allowing them to ascertain that other problems are not causing the TMD symptoms. Sometimes, dentists also perform other imaging tests, like MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) to diagnose TMD symptoms.
Treatments for TMD
There are various treatments available to cure temporomandibular disorders. While for some treatments, dentists can help; for others, you need to visit an oral surgeon.
Let us look at some of the basic conservative TMJ treatments:
Where your dentist can help
- Take medications. Some medications can help relieve swelling and muscle pain. Your dentist can prescribe, after diagnosis, the best medications.
- Undergo corrective dental treatments. Corrective dental treatments, such as replacing a missing tooth, adjusting the bite, moving teeth, filling gaps between teeth, and so on, by your dentist can help cure TMJ.
- Wear a night guard. Night guards are custom-made mouthpieces that can fit easily over the lower teeth and upper teeth. They prevent the lower teeth and upper teeth coming together, reducing the effects of clenching or grinding the teeth.
- Undergo ultrasound treatment. Ultrasound stimulates tissues beneath the skin. Your dentist, if they have ultrasound equipment, can apply high frequency sound waves to the temporomandibular joints to relieve soreness and improve jaw mobility.
- Undergo transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation therapy. This therapy uses electrical current to reduce both acute and chronic pain. If your dentist has the right equipment, then he or she will use it to relax your facial muscles and jaw joints, relieving you from jaw pain.
- Undergo radio wave therapy. The purpose of radio wave therapy is to increase blood flow by utilizing a low level electrical stimulation. If you have excessive pain in your temporomandibular joints, your dentist can use radio wave therapy to increase blood flow near your joints to relieve you from pain.
Where you take action
- Eat soft foods. Consuming soft foods reduce strain on your jaws. Therefore, eat foods that are soft like mashed potatoes, yogurt, cooked fruits and vegetables, grains, fish, scrambled eggs, soup, and beans. Further, make sure to cut foods into tiny pieces in order to reduce the amount of chewing required.
- Use ice pack and warm towel. Apply an ice pack on the side of your face for somewhere about 10 minutes. Then do a few stretching exercises for your jaw. After that, place a warm towel on the side of your face for just about 5 minutes. Do this several times a day, and make it a habit until you are completely free from pain.
- Avoid excessive jaw movements. Refrain excessive jaw movements, such as singing or yelling. Further, keep chewing (especially gums) to a minimum.
- Learn to relax. Relaxation helps reduce stress, which indeed prevent clenching teeth, tightening jaw and facial muscles that are responsible for TMD.
Let us also look at surgical TMD treatments
For temporomandibular joint disorders, there are three types of surgery available. They are as follows:
- Arthroscopy: It is a less invasive surgical procedure to cure TMJ and other joints. Utilizing this procedure, the surgeon makes a small incision near the ear to removes sore tissue or aligns the condyle or disc. Before the procedure, patient is put under general anesthesia. The patient’s recovery time is very short with this procedure.
- Arthrocentesis: Like Arthroscopy, it is also a less invasive procedure. Utilizing syringes, the surgeon cleans out the joint with sterile fluids. Of course, the surgeon will use general anesthesia before performing this procedure.
- Open-joint surgery: This procedure also utilizes general anesthesia. In this procedure, the surgeon opens up the entire area around the temporomandibular joint. This gives them a clear view and access to cure TMD.