TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, is a condition that affects the movement of your jaw joint. When the joint receives damage or overuse, it can affect its movement. The jaw joint is responsible for opening and closing your mouth. Mild cases of TMJ cause a popping or clicking sound within your joint. However, more advanced cases can cause pain, chronic headaches, or limited range of motion.
There is not one determined cause of TMJ because there can be many. Sometimes, TMJ is due to a genetic deformity or a physical trauma. Other times, clenching the jaw or grinding the teeth can inflame the muscles. Regardless of the cause, there are many treatment options.
The muscles around your jaw are like any other muscle group in your body. If you overwork a muscle group, they feel sore, causing pain or discomfort. Therefore, one method of treatment is to rest that muscle group. However, since it is your jaw muscles, it can be difficult to avoid using them completely. One way you can achieve this is to minimize how much you speak throughout the day.
Additionally, you should avoid eating any foods or snacks that overwork those muscles. For example, chewing gum can irritate these muscles. Also, foods that involve a lot of chewing, such as tough meats or sticky sweets, can inflame TMJ. Instead, try eating soft foods or soups until your jaw feels better.
To combat the pain from TMJ, you can try using medication. Ask your dentist for recommendations depending on the severity of your TMJ. Many over-the-counter medications can reduce the pain from TMJ. For example, you can use Advil or Tylenol to minimize inflammation and pain.
However, your dentist may prescribe painkillers or muscle relaxers if your pain is more severe. It is essential to use medication as directed.
If the muscles in your jaw do not function correctly, you can utilize physical therapy. At times, the muscles may have some type of imbalance or lack of strength. In addition, your muscles may be too tight and need to be stretched. Therefore, you can do exercises with a physical therapist to restore the function of your muscles.
Other than exercises, you may use a combination of heat and ice to help relieve your pain.
One way that your dentist can help your TMJ is with a custom mouthguard. One of the causes of TMJ is bruxism or teeth grinding. Wearing a mouthguard can help protect your teeth and jaw. While you sleep, the mouthguard keeps your jaw aligned and cushions your teeth.
Your jaw cannot take the excess pressure from clenching your teeth. Therefore, your muscles become sore and overworked. The mouthguard helps prevent your muscles from overuse.
For advanced cases of TMJ, you may need surgery. It is possible for TMJ to freeze your jaw, which makes it nearly impossible to eat or speak. Some surgeries can help restore the function of the joint. Additionally, there are some injections, such as corticosteroids or botox, that can help with the pain.