Many adults suffer from temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders or jaw joint pain, sometimes referred to as chronic facial pain. TMJ disorders affect mostly women but men also suffer from it.
Common symptoms of a TMJ disorder include pain on the sides of the face or head, noise in the jaw joints, uneven bite and problems with jaw movements such as closing the mouth and moving the jaw side wards. In some cases, one might experience neck and/or shoulder pain, clicking and popping sounds in the jaw joint, and difficulty in moving the jaw joint which in turn affects talking, eating and even smiling.
Factors such as traumatic injury to the jaw joints and ill-fitting dental fillings can trigger TMJ problems. A poor bite or multiple missing teeth could be a triggering factor too. Occasionally, if one attempts to open the jaw too wide and dislocates the jaw joint, this may damage the cartilage in the jaw joint and cause TMJ problems in the future.
One of the most common characteristics amongst patients in big cities is stress. We know that bruxism is related with day time stress. When a person is highly stressed, he or she is more likely to grind his teeth during sleep – it is not surprising that the jaw muscles are tired in the morning, resulting in jaw pain during the day. This is called myofascial pain and is one form of a TMJ disorder.
Diagnosis is an important step before treatment. Part of a clinical examination includes checking the joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty moving. A patient’s complete medical history may be reviewed, so it is important to keep dental office record up-to-date. The dentist may make a model of your teeth to see how your bite fits together. Your dentist may also take specialized x-rays for the TMJ.
Treatments for TMJ disorders may include stress reducing exercises and muscle relaxants. Bruxism can be easily treated with dental appliances such as a mouth guard. If the patient is experiencing a locked jaw (a type of TMJ disorder) which is an inflammation of the jaw joint, he might benefit from an injection of steroids or painkiller into the jaw joint. In case where missing teeth or a poor bite is the reason for the symptoms, then a dental rehabilitation using crowns, denture or dental implants may be the solution. In situations where the pain condition is difficult to pinpoint, a visit to a neurologist or a specialist dealing with pain may be needed.
TMJ treatment typically requires more than two months to show some results. This is simply due to the fact that healing of jaw joints, the associated cartilage and muscles requires time. Occasionally, fixing and repairing the bite/teeth may be needed to ensure predictability
Preventive measures include choosing regular-sized food items if possible and cutting food into small pieces before eating. Dietary supplements for the joint such as glucosamine will also strengthen the jaw joints’ cartilage as well as speed up the healing process.
TMJ Disorders are a multi-factorial clinical problem. A lot of people have had it or are suffering from it. Do not let it go and suffer in silence. The key is to sort it out and treat it early.
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