TMJ disorders are problems with the temporomandibular joint which cause tenderness and pain on each side of the head just in front of the ears. The TMJ is located where the lower jawbone meets the skull and allows people to talk, chew and open their mouths. TMJ disorders can make these daily routine activities difficult or painful for the person suffering from the disorder.
There are various causes and types of TMJ disorders. Injury and other conditions may result in TMJ disorders which are painful and uncomfortable. Disorders of the Temporomandibular joint can be treated with certain non surgical treatments as well as various dental or surgical interventions depending on the severity of the disorder and the patient.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
Various symptoms may exist that can alert an individual to the possibility of a TMJ disorder. Pain or tenderness in the jaw is the most common symptom but there are many others. An aching pain that is located in or around the ear may signify a TMJ disorder. People with TMJ disorders may have trouble chewing or talking because it hurts to move the jaw.
Pain in the face is also a common symptom of a TMJ disorder. The joint may lock and make it difficult to open or close the mouth as a result of a TMJ disorder. Additionally, the bite of a person with a TMJ disorder may be uneven because teeth are making contact prematurely as a result of the disorder. It may even be very uncomfortable for the person suffering from a TMJ disorder to bite down onto something.
Sometimes TMJ disorders will cause a clicking sound in the jaw when the mouth is opened and closed. There may also be a grating sensation that radiates through the jaw and the mouth when the jaw is moved as a result of a TMJ disorder. If there is clicking but there is not any pain associated with movement of the jaw then most likely this does not signify a TMJ disorder.
Causes of TMJ Disorders
TMJ disorders can be caused by a number of different events. The Temporomandibular joint uses a hinge action along with sliding motions to allow the jaw to open and close. The bones that interact with the joint are covered with cartilage that is separated by a small disc that works as a shock absorber so that the movement is smooth and uninterrupted.
People with TMJ disorders may have damaged cartilage as a result of arthritis which can cause the disorder. If the Temporomandibular joint gets damaged by impact or blunt force the resulting effect can be a TMJ disorder. Certain activities can cause the shock absorbing disc to erode or to move out of alignment and this can result in a TMJ disorder. Additionally, the muscles that stabilize the Temporomandibular joint may become overworked or tired over time as a result of clenching the teeth or grinding the teeth and this too can cause a TMJ disorder.
Treatments for TMJ Disorders
TMJ disorders can be treated in a number of different ways. Surgery, medication and various orthopedic devices can work to correct TMJ disorders. In most cases, TMJ disorders will naturally go away on their own without any form of treatment. If the symptoms of a TMJ disorder persist a doctor may recommend a treatment plan that may include medication, therapy and in rare cases surgery.
Various medications can be used to treat TMJ disorders depending on the severity of the disorder and the cause of the disorder. Painkillers may be prescribed to relieve the pain that is felt in the jaw, face or mouth as a result of a TMJ disorder. Muscle relaxants may also be used for a few days or for a few weeks to relieve the pain caused by the TMJ disorder. Corticosterioid drugs may be used to provide relief of inflammation of the Temporomandibular joint which may be that cause of the TMJ disorder.
Therapy may also be used to treat TMJ disorders. A bite guard may be used to prevent the individual from grinding their teeth in their sleep or to prevent teeth clenching. Bite guards may cause problems of sleep apnea or other sleep disorders so it is important to speak with a specialist before making the decision to use a bite guard for the treatment of TMJ disorders.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is another effective form of treatment for TMJ disorders. This type of therapy may help an individual to determine which (if any) symptoms make the TMJ disorder pain or symptoms worse and then work to change those behaviors in order to reduce the symptoms of the disorder. Certain TMJ disorders may be triggered by stress or anxiety and cognitive behavioral therapy can help to reduce the effects of stress or anxiety and thus eliminate the trigger for the TMJ pain.
In rare cases, when the individual does not respond to other forms of treatment, surgery may be used to treat TMJ disorders. The surgery would repair the joint or if necessary replace the joint completely so that the individual would no longer have problems with the Temporomandibular joint. TMJ surgery is not recommended unless other forms of treatment have been repeatedly tried and have been unsuccessful.