What is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?
Temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, is a mouthful to say and can be overwhelming to understand. In order to comprehend what it is, we must first look at what the temporomandibular joint is and how it functions. It is essentially a joint that acts like a sliding hinge to connect your jawbone to your skull. We have two of these joints, one on each side of the jaw. TMJ disorders, which are a type of temporomandibular disorder (TMD), can trigger pain in the jaw joint as well as in the muscles that control jaw movement. Take a quick look at this video, courtesy of Spear Education:
Spear Education Patient Engagement Video
Causes of TMJ
TMJ may be triggered by a number of factors. Here are some potential causes of TMJ:
- Genetics: Though more related to environmental factors, heredity can play a part in developing TMJ.
- Arthritis: According to NCBI, rheumatoid arthritis has a propensity for affecting the temporomandibular joint.
- Jaw Injury: If you’ve experienced a jaw injury, you may develop TMJ; however, it may not develop immediately and could actually take years to manifest itself.
- Bruxism: Some people who have jaw pain also clench or grind their teeth, but not all develop TMJ disorders.
Symptoms of TMJ
There is a wide range of signs and symptoms that those with TMJ may experience. They may include, but are not limited to:
- Pain or tenderness in the jaw
- Pain in one or both of your temporomandibular joints
- Difficulty with or pain while chewing
- An aching sensation or pain in and around your ear
- Aching facial pain
- Difficulty opening or closing your mouth; locking of the joint
- Headaches and/or muscle spasms
Treatment for TMJ
There are several ways to treat temporomandibular joint disorder. These may include self care techniques, therapies, devices and medications. Here is a snapshot of the most common treatment options:
- Self Care: These options can include anything from relaxation techniques to stress management. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation and yoga can help to reduce symptoms of stress. Activities that you enjoy can help to reduce stress and improve your mental health as well as your physical health.
- Therapies: Stretching, physical therapy, acupuncture and biofeedback may be therapies you employ to help treat your TMJ. Biofeedback refers to the act of controlling the body’s heartbeat, brainwaves, breathing, and blood pressure by monitoring them with sensors. Biofeedback is particularly important in the treatment of TMJ dysfunction because it alerts patients to excessive and inappropriate muscle activity.
- Devices: Mouthguards, prosthodontics and splints may be used to help treat TMJ. Prosthodontics refer to artificial replacements for teeth and other parts of the mouth, like bridges and dentures.
- Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics, nerve pain medication, muscle relaxants and sedatives may also be prescribed to help treat temporomandibular joint disorder.
As always, if you have any questions about TMJ or think you might be developing temporomandibular joint disorder, please don’t hesitate to contact us!