The lower jaw is connected to the skull via the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This joint works like a sliding hinge to allow you to talk, laugh, eat, and yawn. When it doesn’t function properly, it can cause pain in both the joint itself and in the muscles that control jaw movement. This is referred to as a TMJ disorder. The exact cause of these disorders is often hard to determine, though stress is often a large factor. Additionally, pain can be the result of other common factors, including genetics, arthritis, and jaw injury. Besides pain, TMJ disorders can cause teeth grinding or clenching, which could eventually lead to damage to the teeth. Teeth grinding is not always caused by a TMJ disorder, however.
There are several symptoms associated with TMJ disorder. These include:
Pain and discomfort that results from a TMJ disorder is often temporary or can be relieved with self-managed care. Non-surgical treatments can be very effective at addressing the disorder. These treatments include medications, such as pain relievers and anti-inflammatories, tricyclic antidepressants, and muscle relaxants. If a non-drug therapy is preferred, oral splints or mouth guards may be recommended. These are soft or firm devices that are usually worn at night inserted over the teeth. Because stress plays a part in causing or exacerbating pain associated with TMJ disorder, it could be helpful to find ways to relax and relieve the stress. Counseling may help.
Physical therapy can also be used to treat TMJ disorder. These treatments include ultrasound, moist heat and ice, and exercises to stretch and strengthen the jaw muscles. Injections of the botulinum toxin can be helpful for easing the tension in the temporomandibular joint, relieving pain in that area.
If none of the non-surgical treatments work to alleviate the symptoms and effects of a TMJ disorder, surgery may be recommended. Book an appointment now using our convenient online booking form.