TMJ Disorders Can Be Treated!
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders are issues related to the jaw joint. This usually corresponds to pain or a reduced flexibility of the jaw joint. There are several factors that can lead to TMJ disorders, however, it is good to understand that in most cases, this is not a serious condition and is easily treated.
What are TMJ Disorders?
Simply put, temporomandibular joint disorders are problems that affect the jaw. To understand the basis of a TMJ disorder we must first look into the anatomy. The jaw joint is located slightly in front of the ear canal. It's use is to connect the mandible (jaw bone) to the skull. Another name for this jaw joint is the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Any issue that you may have with this joint can usually be referred to as a TMJ disorder. Although this is the most commonly used name for such disorders, other medical terms include; TMJ dysfunction, TMJ pain and my fascial pain disorder. The position where two bones meet are called joints. The main purpose of our joints are to provide flexibility and movement between the two bones. The jaw joint in particular allows for the movement between the mandible (jawbone) and the skull. We have muscles attached to both our jawbone and our skull. These muscles relax and contract in order to make the jawbone move as the mouth is opened and closed. Between the bones you have a smooth disc of cartilage. This covers the areas of bones that will be sliding over each other.
TMJ Disorder Symptoms
If you are concerned that you may have a TMJ disorder then you are not alone. In fact, around one in ten people suffer from the following symptoms:
- You may feel pain directly in the joint or in the surrounding areas. This pain can often spread out to the cheek, the temple and sometimes the ear.
- You may find it difficult to open and close your jaw. This may give you pain as well as a feeling of tightness or jaw clenching. In some cases you may suffer from a locked jaw. This will make it very difficult for you to open and close your mouth.
- Have you ever heard clicking sounds coming from the jaw joints when you are eating food or chewing something? Although these noises can be completely normal, they can also be a symptom of TMJ disorder.
- Other symptoms include; heightened sensitivity to sound, dizziness and hearing specific noises in your ear. These symptoms arise due to the close proximity between the ear and the temporomandibular joint.
TMJ Disorder Causes:
It is difficult to pinpoint one exact cause for your TMJ disorder. This is because such a disorder is generally the result of numerous factors. Hence, you will find that if you do suffer from a TMJ disorder, it is likely due to several of the causes listed below. We can however, group the causes into two key areas; muscular problems and problems with the joint.
Overuse of the jaw muscles: This is often an issue for people who suffer from jaw clenching whilst they sleep. The jaw can exert a much higher amount of pressure whilst you are sleeping and so the muscles are worked much harder. In these cases you may wake up in the morning with pains or tiredness in your jaw.
Pain syndrome: This is where you develop an increased sensitivity to pain and can often be the result of higher amounts of stress or anxiety in your life.
You may have suffered an injury to the TMJ or to its disc of cartilage. This may result in TMJ pains.
Wear and tear: This tends to affect older people rather than younger people and can be due to a type of arthritis known as osteoarthritis.
Other types of arthritis: These include; gout and rheumatoid arthritis and can often affect the temporomandibular joint.
Treatment for TMJ Disorders
The majority of issues with the jaw joint simply require rest. The difficulty with this is that we use our jaws for so much every day that it can be difficult to rest effectively. As a result, it is recommended to get some advice based on your lifestyle as to how you can best rest your TMJ.
Resting the jaw joint:
It is wise to avoid chewing gum as this puts unnecessary stress on your TMJ. It is also recommended to eat soft foods that don't require too much pressure to be exerted by your jaw muscles. If you are feeling some soreness in your muscle then you can carefully massage it to add some warmth and relax the muscle. Other potential treatments to help rest the jaw joint involve attempting to reduce stress. This is due to the nature of the positive relationshipbetween stress and jaw clenching.
Splints and Bite Guards:
Splints or bite guards such as the SCi appliance. These are small appliances that fit over to the front teeth. These reduce the para-functional intensity of the tiny muscles at the joints of your jaw. The effect of these appliances can be huge. They can reduce the pressure exerted by your jaws of up to 70%.
Injections or Surgery:
A steroidal injection can be injected into the joint. These are most efficient where symptoms are due to inflammation in the joint.
If the TMJ muscles are severely overactive, an injection of Botox can be extremely effective in reducing the symptoms.
If surgery is required, a fibre-optic device can be inserted into the joint. This is called arthroscopy.
The outlook for sufferers of TMJ disorders is usually very good.For those with a mild case, rest will be the most likely cure. For those suffering harsher symptoms, you may need to undertake some of the other treatments listed above.