TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) is not a single, isolated disorder. It is a group of problems that involves joints around the jaw and the muscles. The temporomandibular joint links the jaw to the skull. Unfortunately, TMJ has no known cure.
Signs and symptoms of TMJ syndrome include stiff jaw muscles, muscle pain while chewing, a jaw has limited motion or gets locked at one place, painful popping, pain in the jaw joint, ear pain, headaches, popping sounds in the ears, stiff jaw muscles, and pain in the temple region.
Causes of TMJ
The causes of temporomandibular joint disorder are not completely understood. However, multiple factors can contribute to muscle tightness and dysfunction which are two conditions that characterize this disorder. Causes of TMJ syndrome include misalignment of the teeth or jaw, teeth grinding, injury to the teeth or jaw, poor posture, arthritis, stress, and gum chewing.
Prevention of TMJ
The jaw shouldn’t be subjected to any form of trauma. If you are under stress, you may begin clenching your jaw. Once this happens, try to relax your jaw muscles and massage your jaw joint gently. If you have experienced a dislocated, or locked jaw, or a sore jaw you can heal yourself and prevent further inflammation. This can be done by relaxing your facial muscles and doing regular, gentle and slow jaw exercises at home. Doing this will help restore the range of motion of your jaw and help it heal.
Treatment for TMJ
Temporomandibular joint disorders often respond well to home remedies, such as placing ice packs to the jaw joint, avoiding chewing gum, and massaging or gently stretching the jaw and neck. Eating soft foods, stress management, and reduction and relaxation techniques can help. When these home remedies do not work, seeking medical treatment will be the next step to follow. Medical care for temporomandibular joint disorders includes Botox injections (Botox is not currently approved for TMJ syndrome treatment), dental splints (stabilization splint or occluded splint or bite guard) which is a dental tool that is placed in the mouth to prevents tooth grinding and keep the teeth in alignment. This can be likened to a mouth guard and is fitted into the mouth by a jaw specialist.
Other treatments for TMJ includes physical therapy, over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen or naproxen) and pain relievers such as aspirin and acetaminophen. Getting a prescription from a medical professional can also work. In severe cases of TMJ surgery on the jaw or dental surgery may be carried out. Trigger point acupuncture procedure can sometimes be helpful. Physical therapy along with jaw exercises can help strengthen the muscles, and improve flexibility. Biobehavioral management (cognitive behavioral therapy) can also help diminish the intensity of the pain.
Note that most of these treatments and remedies above will not cure TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), but they can provide relief for the pain either temporary or even on the long-term. The prognosis for TMJ is good as the disorder can be managed with simple home remedies and self-care.