The temporomandibular joint is a hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of the skull, where one is situated in front of each ear. This joint enables the upward, downward and sideways movement of the jaw, thus helping us to talk, chew and yawn.
An injury or damage in the in the jaw or accompanying muscles can lead to a localized disorder, known as Temporomandibular disorder (TMD), often misnamed as TMJ, after the name of the joint itself.
TMJ is a common occurrence in women than in men, within the age group of 20 and 40. TMJ can often lead to severe pain and discomfort, which can be temporary as well as lasting for years. Pain in one or both sides of the face can be involved.
Symptoms of TMD
- Tenderness or pain in the facial area, jaw joint(s), often also in neck and shoulders.
- Pain in or around the ear area while chewing, speaking or opening your mouth wide
- Jaws tend to get locked in open or closed mouth state
- Grating sounds in the jaw joint with or without pain during jaw movements
- A general feeling of facial fatigue
- Swelling on either side of the face
- Troubled chewing conditions- feeling of a misfit of the upper and lower teeth.
Other less common symptoms include pain in tooth and head, dizziness, hearing malfunctions and ringing in the ears.
Treatment of TMD
- Home treatment: TMD symptoms can be relieved temporarily using the following home remedial measures, apart from taking over-the-counter medications after consulting a doctor:
- Use of moist heat or cold packs
- Eating soft foods to minimize chewing movement
- Avoiding extreme jaw movements
- Avoidance of resting the chin on your hand
- Keeping teeth slightly apart in resting position as long as and as often as possible.
- Practicing relaxation techniques such as physical therapy or massage to reduce stress.
- Traditional treatment: The dentists often advise you to follow these time-tested methods:
- Medications: Higher dosages of Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often prescribed to deal with pain and swelling. Since stress may often be a causal factor behind TMD, an anti-anxiety medication may often be advised to cope with stress. Another option is to go for muscle relaxers to give rest to your jaw if there is a tendency to grind or clench teeth. However, all these types of medications are available only by prescription.
- Splint or night guard: These plastic mouthpieces keep the upper and lower teeth away from each other, thereby reducing the effects due to grinding or clenching of teeth. Additionally, these guards correct the bite position of teeth. Splints are, on the contrary, meant for all time use.
- Dental intervention: Dentists often opt for replacing missing teeth by using crowns, bridges or braces in order to maintain the proper balance between teeth surfaces.
- Specialized treatments: In case the modes of treatment as listed above dont provide desired results, dentists recommend:
- Electrical nerve stimulation
- Pain medication injection
- Radio wave therapy
- Laser therapy