Do you experience lockjaw, or jaw pain, or teeth grinding? If so, you might have temporomandibular joint dysfunction or disorder, also known as TMJ. TMJ is fairly common, affecting an estimated five to 12 percent of the population.
A single cause for TMJ hasn’t been conclusively established. This makes it difficult for TMJ sufferers to get long-lasting treatment for their jaw pain. While not life-threatening, TMJ disorder can impact your quality of life. For this reason, if you are experiencing jaw pain or discomfort, it’s important that you seek treatment.
Here’s what you need to know about temporomandibular joint dysfunction and how jaw treatment can help.
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction, also known as TMJ disorder, is a condition in which the temporomandibular joint is unable to function properly.
Located in your jaw, the temporomandibular joint connects the jawbone to the skull. The temporomandibular joint works like the type of hinge you find on doors; it’s responsible for opening and closing your mouth. The temporomandibular joint makes a sliding motion, moving the mandible down and forward. We open and close our mouths constantly to talk and eat, so this joint is vital.
If you have jaw pain, it’s a clear indicator that something could be going wrong with your temporomandibular joint. However, jaw pain isn’t the only symptom of TMJ disorder. Here are some of the most common TMJ symptoms to look for:
As mentioned, there isn’t a well-established single cause of TMJ disorder. Instead, various things may contribute to dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint. These include:
Some of the more obvious causes of TMJ disorder, like experiencing an injury, are rarely the cause of this condition. Interestingly, it’s more common that your TMJ disorder is caused by stress and tension. When we experience stress, many of us clench our jaws. Overtime, this can lead to the development of temporomandibular joint dysfunction.
If you are experiencing jaw pain and are searching for TMJ relief, here are some treatments to help.
Before you try out any of these TMJ disorder treatments, the first point-of-call is to meet with a doctor or TMJ specialist near you. A medical professional will be able to give you a formal diagnosis to ensure that your TMJ symptoms are not in fact caused by something else. Once you have established dysfunction of your TMJ, you can start treatment.
The treatment for TMJ disorder will often include a variety of different methods, depending on how severe your pain is.
1. Pain relief
For severe TMJ pain or TMJ headaches, try taking an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen. Taking this can help to treat TMJ pain as and when it occurs. However, it will not provide long-lasting relief TMJ relief.
2. Avoid jaw overextension
When you eat hard or chewy foods, your jaw works overtime. This can exacerbate TMJ pain and discomfort. Instead, go for softer foods. This doesn’t mean you have to drastically change your diet, it just means avoiding chewing gum, and going for a banana instead of an apple, for example.
3. Apply ice
When you are feeling TMJ pain, you can apply ice. Ice will also help to target the swelling caused by TMJ.
4. Relax your jaw
When we’re stressed, we’re prone to jaw clenching. Make a conscious decision to relax the muscles of your face and unclench your jaw. Remember to do this at multiple times throughout the day to keep your jaw soft.
5. Manage stress
A longer term strategy for TMJ relief is to manage your stress. You can do this by performing yoga, getting a massage, or meditating, to name a few. Stress and physical tension exacerbate TMJ disorder, if not entirely cause it.
6. Wear an occlusal splint
An occlusal splint is designed to protect your jaw from teeth grinding. It’s essentially a mouth guard that separates the back teeth, only allowing the front teeth to touch the smooth surface. You wear it while you’re sleeping to prevent your TMJ from grinding your teeth together.
7. Treatment for TMJ
Did you know that you can use treatment for TMJ disorder? Let’s dive a bit deeper into this topic.
The treatment is injected into the skin to temporarily paralyze the movement of the target muscle. The most common and well-known use for anti-wrinkle treatment is to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. But this is just one of its many uses! It is highly versatile, with one such use to treat TMJ pain.
The masseter muscle is located in the jaw. It’s the major stabilizer of your temporomandibular joint. When you clench your teeth and jaw down, you can usually feel your masseter muscle contracting. This muscle elevates the mandible, so any dysfunction of the TMJ can also affect the masseters.
So why are the masseter muscles important for TMJ disorder? Joints and muscles work simultaneously with each other for movement. Any dysfunction in one, affects the other. If you are experiencing jaw pain or TMJ symptoms, there is a high likelihood that your masseter muscles are contributing to this.
Muscle overuse from jaw clenching and teeth grinding causes the masseter muscles to become tense. Like any tense muscle in the body, this can restrict movement and lead to discomfort.
So to improve jaw pain and TMJ symptoms, you have to target the masseters. The way to do this is to get masseter treatment.
The treatment is injected into the masseter muscle, which relaxes it. As a result, the tension, pain, and tightness all alleviates. The jaw can no longer clench as tightly as before, which means teeth grinding and jaw clenching comes to a halt.
You may experience TMJ pain relief in a week to 10 days post-treatment. Most patients will see almost all of their symptoms subside within 14 days after receiving treatment. However, the exact time differs from person-to-person depending on how advanced and severe your condition is.
The therapeutic results for the treatment for teeth grinding can last up to six months. After it starts to wear off, you may begin to experience jaw pain and other TMJ symptoms. This indicates that it’s time to come back into Sisu Clinic for a jaw treatment appointment.
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