Temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, is a painful condition that affects the jaw joints and the surrounding muscles. It can cause a range of symptoms, such as jaw pain or headaches. Additionally, you may experience popping or clicking sounds when you open or close your mouth. Over time, these symptoms can worsen, causing disruptions to your life and routine.
Everyday Effects of TMJ
TMJ can have a significant impact on your daily life. If you have significant pain in your jaw, it can cause discomfort and limit your ability to perform normal activities such as eating, speaking, and even sleeping. Jaw pain can be constant, sharp, or dull and may worsen when chewing, yawning, or talking.
In some cases, TMJ can cause difficulty opening the mouth fully, which can make eating or speaking difficult. Furthermore, TMJ can lead to tension headaches and earaches, which can be debilitating.
If left untreated, TMJ can worsen over time, leading to more severe pain and even the development of other conditions such as tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or vertigo (dizziness). Seeking treatment for TMJ early on can prevent further damage and improve your quality of life.
Treatment Options for TMJ
Depending on the severity and cause of your TMJ, treatment options may vary. With mild cases, self-care measures can help minimize your discomfort. This may include applying heat or cold to the jaw to reduce pain and inflammation. Additionally, avoiding hard or chewy foods can minimize overworking the muscles and joints. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may also provide temporary relief.
For more severe cases of TMJ, a dentist or oral surgeon may recommend various treatments.
If stress or teeth grinding contributes to your TMJ, your dentist may recommend wearing a mouthguard at night. The soft material of the mouthguard provides a cushion to your teeth, reducing the tension in your jaw. In addition, your dentist can create a custom-made mouthguard to fit your mouth precisely.
Like any muscle group, jaw muscles can develop abnormalities or dysfunctions. As a result, you may need physical therapy to treat your TMJ. Exercises that stretch and strengthen the jaw muscles can improve jaw function and reduce pain.
If you have pain and inflammation in your jaw joint or muscles, some medications can work to minimize your TMJ symptoms. For example, prescription muscle relaxers or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs can help reduce your pain.
However, some patients may hesitate to use medication; therefore, you may look into heat and ice therapy for your condition.
In rare cases, you may need surgery to address the damage in your jaw joint. However, this is an intensive method and is not often the first method for TMJ treatment.
It is important to note that TMJ treatment is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Additionally, what works for one person may not work for you. Your dentist at Coastal VA Sleep will work with you to determine the best course of treatment based on your specific needs and symptoms.