What is TMJ and How is it Treated?

TMJ generally refers to a group of health issues related to your jaw, but it is also an acronym for TMJ itself.

The joint is found on both sides of your head in front of your ears and is essential for eating and speaking. As you can probably imagine, disorders affecting this joint can cause a range of problems, from jaw pain to persistent headaches and difficulty eating.

The National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) estimates that at least 10 million Americans suffer from TMJ.

In honor of TMJ Awareness Month, we aim to highlight this common oral condition – what causes it, signs to look for, how it’s diagnosed, and ways it can be treated to relieve pain and prevent long-term problems.

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What causes TMJ weakness?

The cause of TMJ dysfunction can vary from person to person. In many cases, it can be difficult to determine the cause because TMJ symptoms often appear without an obvious cause. However, factors that may lead to TMJ can include one or more of the following:

  • Genetics
  • arthritis
  • Injury or dislocation of the jaw
  • bruxism (bruxism of the teeth)
  • Joint or muscle problems present at birth
  • Prolonged stress that leads to muscle tension
  • Bad posture that leads to stress on the face and neck
  • Some connective tissue diseases that may affect the jaw

TMJ dysfunction also appears to be more common in women than in men, particularly women between the ages of 19 and 49. A recent survey by the TMJ Society found that 90% of people with TMJ pain are women of this age. Domain.

The reasons for this are not fully known but some theories include differences in bone structure and muscle density, as well as the ways in which women handle and respond to stress. Scientists are also exploring a possible link between female hormones and an increased chance of developing TMJ pain.

TMJ signs and symptoms

A variety of symptoms have been linked to the TMJ, and they can vary depending on the cause and/or severity of the condition. These can appear on one or both sides of the face and usually involve some level of jaw pain, tenderness, or stiffness. Furthermore, symptoms can include any of the following or a combination of the following:

  • Jaw pain, tenderness, and stiffness
  • Jaw popping, clicking and/or clamping
  • Unlock
  • Pain or difficulty when chewing
  • Pain in the neck and shoulders
  • Pain, pressure, or ringing in the ears
  • Chronic headache
  • Dizziness and/or vision problems
  • Bite looks perverted

How is the TMJ diagnosed?

According to Terry Cowley, president and co-founder of the TMJ Association, diagnosing TMJ can be challenging. “Currently, there is no simple, scientifically validated test to diagnose TMJ disorders,” She told HealthCentral. Diagnosis is based on the patient’s description of the pain and jaw dysfunction, [medical] History, and examination of the head, neck, face and jaw.”

Some people may have jaw clicking or slight difficulty when moving their jaws, but they do not report feeling any pain. If this is the case, seeking a diagnosis may not be necessary. Even occasional jaw discomfort is common and often goes away on its own.

However, if the pain persists or the jaw becomes more difficult to move, Cowley recommends first seeing a doctor to rule out other common conditions or diseases that may be causing the symptoms. Your doctor may then recommend a visit to your dentist to further research a TMJ diagnosis. This may include certain imaging tests, such as an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI of the jaw.

How to treat TMJ

Cowley explains that most TMJ symptoms subside over time and can be treated with simple self-care techniques. NIDCR echoes that sentiment and says it “Little is often better in TMJ” Unlike more severe treatments that can result in unnecessary permanent changes to the bite or jaw.

The NIDCR recommends the following home remedies to relieve TMJ symptoms:

  • Eat soft foods
  • put ice bags
  • Use a night guard if you grind or clench your teeth
  • Avoiding intense or repetitive movements of the jaw, such as widely yawning and chewing gum
  • Practicing techniques to reduce stress in the face, jaw, neck and shoulders, such as stretching and gentle massage

Even if TMJ symptoms persist, experts still recommend its use only “The most conservative and reversible treatments.” These medications can include over-the-counter or prescription painkillers, Botox to relax the muscles around the jaw, or short-term use of a splint (Focus on the short term).

In the rarest cases, your dentist may suggest treatments that cause permanent changes to the bite or jaw, such as orthodontics, modification of the occlusal (chewing) surfaces of the teeth, or even surgery. However, keep in mind that the NIDCR strongly recommends against using these options because they may worsen symptoms and “There have been no long-term clinical trials studying the safety and efficacy of surgical treatments for TMJ disorders.”

As always, it is important to talk with your dentist about what ails you so that you can discuss your options and decide on the right treatment plan for you. Be sure to ask and find a dental care provider who has experience treating the pain associated with these conditions.

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