What Treatment Options Are Available for TMJ?
Temporomandibular Joint refers to joints and muscles located on either side of the face. These muscles help us chew, yawn, and speak. Anything that affects one or more of these muscles may cause pain and lead to Temporomandibular Joint Disorder.
TMD causes include arthritis, injury, dislocation, stress, teeth grinding, tooth and jaw misalignment.
A TMJ disorder can refer to muscle problems affecting jaw movement, pain the face, or problems with the specific joint. Because of the complexity of the disorder, it is hard to diagnose and treat the problem. It is therefore important to seek treatment from a licensed dentist or doctor.
Most of the problems associated with the TMJ whether within the joint or muscle can get better over time. For that reason, doctors and dentists recommend conservative or home remedies to ease the discomfort. Furthermore, most people tend to have mild TMJ symptoms and home remedies can work great. Here are a few options for TMJ treatment that you can consider:
A soft diet can help reduce discomfort and pressure in your joints as they require less chewing. With soft foods such as mashed potatoes, soup, scrambled eggs, smoothies, and fish, you can give your jaw a rest and time to heal. You should also avoid chewy, hard, large, crunchy foods that may exert pressure on the joints.
You may eat a soft diet for two or three weeks until the symptoms clear up. But, sometimes depending on the symptoms, you may need to take the soft foods for a longer period or as instructed by the dentist.
Several medications can help ease the pain such as Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs like aspirin can work great in relieving swelling and pain. You can also use muscle relaxants to loosen the muscles. These muscle relaxants are ideal for people who clench or grind their teeth often but remember you will need a prescription from the dentist.
At times, the doctor can prescribe antianxiety drugs to relieve stress which makes TMD symptoms worse.
- Moist heat or Ice Packs
Moist heat can help relax tight muscles and spasms. You can microwave a wet towel and apply it on your jaw at least four times a day. Ice packs, on the other hand, can help ease the pain.
TMJ splints are designed to fit over the teeth to keep the jaw immobilized. These splints can help reduce clenching and grinding of the teeth as well as reduce pressure off the jaw muscles.
Not everyone is eligible for splints, and only the dentist can recommend them after assessment. It is important to follow the dentist’s instructions especially when it comes to how long you should wear them. Wearing the TMJ splint for too long can change your bite.
If the splint causes or increases jaw pain, you should remove it and contact our dentist immediately.
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS
TENS is a technique that uses low-level electrical currents to relax the muscles and joints. These devices are available at your local pharmacy but first talk to the doctor before getting one.
This treatment involves the use of deep heat to relieve sore or painful joints that can’t move. Ultrasound treatment is used alongside other physical therapy techniques.
Certain jaw exercises can help reduce tension. Exercises such as chin tucks, goldfish or full opening of the mouth, and side-to-side jaw movement can work great.
Surgery is done after all these other treatments have failed to alleviate the pain. It is also a treatment option for people with a degenerative disease that may not necessarily respond to the above-mentioned treatments.
Other Treatment Tips
- Yawn as little as possible
- Avoid yelling, singing or other activities that involve extreme jaw movement
- Sleep on the supine (or back) instead of the stomach
- Try to reduce pressure on the chin and avoid stress
Don’t live with pain, contact us for treatment if you have jaw pain. Our dentist will assess and recommend the correct treatment.