Sometimes the exact cause of a TMJ disorder is hard to diagnose. Your jaw pain may be due to a combination of factors, like an injury to the jaw or arthritis. Some people that have jaw pain tend to clench their teeth or grind their teeth. However, many people that grind or clench their teeth regularly never develop any symptoms of TMJ.
In many cases, the discomfort and pain that comes with TMJ is alleviated with self-care and non-surgical treatment. However, severe cases may require surgical intervention.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
Symptoms of TMJ disorders include:
- Locking of the joint, making it hard to open and close your mouth
- Tenderness and/or pain in your jaw
- Pain in and/or around your ear
- Facial pain
- Difficulty or discomfort when chewing
TMJ disorders may cause a grating sensation when you chew or open your mouth. They may also cause a clicking sound. However, if there isn’t any pain or limited movement when the clicking sound is present, you might not need treatment for a TMJ disorder.
Get medical attention as soon as possible if you experience constant pain or tenderness in your jaw, or if you are unable to completely close your jaw. Your dentist, doctor, or TMJ specialist will talk to you about possible causes and treatments for your particular problem.
Causes of TMJ Disorders
As previously stated, TMJ has a sliding hinge action. The bones that interact in the TMJ are covered in cartilage and have a shock-absorbing disc between them. The disc normally keeps the movement of the jaw nice and smooth.
TMJ disorders that are painful can occur if the disc erodes or becomes misaligned, if arthritis damages the cartilage, or if the joint is damaged by being hit to the jaw or some other impact. In several cases, the cause of TMJ disorders are unclear. TMJ disorders have been known to happen most often in women ages 20-40, but it can happen at any age.
Diagnosing TMJ Disorders
When you go to see your dentist, they will do a physical exam. They will listen to any noises your jaw makes and feel your jaw while you open and close your mouth. They will take note of the range of motion in your jaw and press on different areas of your jaw to find where the pain and is comfort is coming from.
If a problem with your teeth is suspected, your dentist will order x-rays. A CT scan will be able to show detailed images of the bones in your jaw, and an MRI can show if you are having problems with the disc in your jaw joint.
Symptoms of TMJ disorders sometimes go away on their own. If your symptoms continue to bother you, there are several treatment options your dentist can recommend.
Pain relievers. If over-the-counter pain relievers are not enough to get relief, your dentist may prescribe an opioid pain reliever for you. Tricyclic antidepressants, like amitriptyline, are also used for pain relief.
Muscle relaxers are sometimes used for a few days or a few weeks depending on the severity of your symptoms.
Sedatives, such as Klonopin, may be used it you are clenching or grinding your teeth at night and it is aggravating your pain.
There are also several treatment options available that your dentist or doctor may try if pharmaceutical treatment doesn’t help.
Arthrocentesis is a procedure where a needle is inserted into the joint so that fluid can irrigate the joint and remove any debris.
Injections of a corticosteroid into the joint may be helpful. In some cases, Botox injections into the muscles used for chewing may relieve pain.
Surgery is the last resort if your pain is caused by a structural problem and your pain does not ease with drugs or other therapies. It has been recommended by The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research to avoid surgery if at all possible.
If you are having symptoms of TMJ, you need to see your dentist as soon as possible. At Simply Smiles Dentistry, we can help you find relief for your mild to severe TMJ pain.
Until next time…Keep on smiling!