Temporomandibular joint dysfunction – commonly called TMJ – is a problem with the chewing muscles and joints in the jaw. People who experience jaw pain or frequently grind their teeth may suffer from this condition. Any time pain is a factor, it is important to see a doctor or dentist. He or she can determine whether TMJ might be a concern and work on a treatment plan. For those who have been diagnosed with TMJ, a good understanding of the condition can put you at ease and help you understand what to expect.
Overview of TMJ
It is not fully known what causes TMJ. The condition is more common in women and other dental concerns, such as clicking or a bad bite, have not been found to be connected. The condition sometimes involves inflammation, which may link it to arthritis and similar health conditions. Some individuals who suffer from anxiety, depression, and tension are susceptible.
Symptoms of TMJ include the following:
- Pain in the jaw, neck, or face
- Limited jaw movement
- Jaw stiffness
- Clicking or grating when the jaw opens and closes
Home Care for TMJ
For many people TMJ goes away on its own over time. Symptoms may be eased by the application of hot or cold packs. It may be helpful to eat softer foods and avoid anything exceptionally sticky or hard that requires more aggressive chewing. Because TMJ is commonly associated with anxiety, relaxation techniques and stretching exercise can also be helpful.
If TMJ lasts for a long period of time, it is important to see a dentist or doctor for evaluation. He or she can rule out other health condition and help create a treatment plan that is more effective.
Treatment for TMJ
Diagnosing TMJ will include a combination of observation from a dentist and tests. This may be an x-ray to detect dental problems, a CT scan to observe the bone structure, or an MRI to get a closer look at the joint disk.
Treatments for TMJ start with pain relievers, antidepressants, or muscle relaxants. Often medication is enough to ease the tension and resolve the problem. If it persists, bite guards and physical therapy may be beneficial.
Surgical Procedures for TMJ
Some patients may need surgery to treat TMJ. Less-invasive methods can be appropriate for certain conditions, but TMJ surgery is an option as a last resort. It is used when the joint is damaged or has structural problems. Other procedures include the following:
- Arthrocentesis involves irrigating the joint to remove debris and reduce inflammation.
- Corticosteroid injections can encourage healing and help muscles relax.
- Botox and similar injections may be used to relieve pain.
Choosing a TMJ Specialist in NJ
Residents of New Jersey can contact Thomas F. Friscia, DDS for an evaluation. Find out more about TMJ and treatment options that work for your lifestyle. If other dental work is needed, sedation dentistry is an option that reduces the anxiety that many adults face during dental procedures.