The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) act like sliding hinges that connect your jaw bone to your skull. TMJ Disorder can cause pain in these joints and in the muscles that control the movement of your jaw. So what causes TMJ Disorder, and what should you do if you think you have it?
Causes of TMJ
The exact causes of TMJ are often hard to determine. Your TMJ Disorder may stem from genetics, a jaw injury, or even arthritis. People who have a TMJ Disorder are often teeth clenchers, yet some people who habitually clench their teeth never develop the disorder.
In some people, the pain associated with TMJ Disorder is temporary and can be relieved through at-home care including eating soft foods, applying ice or moist heat, and avoiding intense jaw movements such as wide yawns or chewing gum. Even fairly severe cases that persist can often be treated without surgery, and the National Institutes for Health (NIH) actually recommend trying non-invasive treatments and saving surgery as a last resort. Some of the recommended treatments are:
- Self-care as described above
- Pain medication – Over-the-counter nsaids such as ibuprofen help reduce inflammation which leads to less pain, and prescription anti-inflammatory medicines are sometimes prescribed if needed. Sometimes, muscle relaxants are helpful, as are anti-anxiety medications to relieve stress, which sometimes exacerbates the condition.
- Acupuncture – studies done to date are inconclusive, but it does help some people with TMJ Disorder.
- Splints – These fit over the teeth to prevent the upper and lower teeth from touching. This makes it difficult to grind or clench your teeth, and takes pressure off the joint and muscles, allowing them to relax and have a chance to heal.
- Trigger-Point Injections – The dentist injects pain medication or an anesthetic into the tender facial muscles to help relieve pain.
- Surgery – Arthroscopic or open-joint surgery is performed as a last resort.
See Your Dentist
If you think you might have TMJ Disorder (also called TMD), see your dentist to discuss your symptoms and go over treatment options. If you’re in the South Attleboro area of Massachusetts, contact us at Exquisite Smiles. We’re accepting new patients and our professional and caring staff is ready to help.