TMJ pain makes it difficult for people who are affected to speak and eat.Fortunately, the condition, which affects over three million people, can be treated.The temporomandibular joint is a joint that acts like a hinge that connects the jawbone to the skull, with one on each side of the jaw. Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder…
TMJ: When To See a Professional
People who suffer from TMJ disorder have symptoms that may range from mild to severe. Milder symptoms may improve from at-home remedies. However, some symptoms interfere with daily living and can cause long-term issues, and this requires professional intervention.
When to try home care
TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint, which connects the jaw to the skull. It controls movement of the jaw, including chewing, yawning, and speaking.
When the joint is injured or misaligned, it is known as TMJ disorder, and it results in various symptoms, many of which are temporary and can be self-managed. Common symptoms include:
- Tenderness or pain around the jaw
- Unilateral or bilateral pain around the joints
- Clicking while chewing or yawning
When symptoms first appear, sometimes home remedies can relieve the discomfort. Placing cold or heat packs over or gently massaging the painful areas may be helpful. It also helps to eat soft foods that give the jaw a rest. Examples include oatmeal, yogurt, soup, and eggs.
Stress and clenching the jaw often contribute to TMJ disorder symptoms. Be hyper-aware of tensing the jaw muscles and make a point of relaxing by keeping the teeth apart and lips together. People with symptoms should also be aware of excessive talking, resting the phone on the shoulder, or yawning widely, as these exacerbate discomfort. If necessary, over-the-counter medications may be taken to relieve the pain, but it should not be a long-term solution.
When to seek a professional
Not all TMJ pain will subside with at-home care.
If pain and tenderness persist or get worse, it is necessary to see a dentist. It is important to seek help right away if the jaw is locked in either the open or closed position. Persisting facial pain is also be a good reason to make an appointment for dental care. If pain interferes with normal sleep, a dentist can help determine what is going on.
The dental professional will conduct an examination and, potentially, additional diagnostic tests such as X-rays, a CT scan, MRI, or arthroscopy. Depending on the cause of jaw pain, a variety of treatments may be recommended. For short-term help, a muscle relaxant may be prescribed to reduce muscle spasms.
Some nondrug therapies include the use of mouth guards or oral splints and physical therapy treatments. Counseling may also be beneficial to determine the factors, such as stress, nail-biting, or chin-leaning, that aggravate TMJ pain.
In extreme circumstances, when other methods do not relieve the pain, more invasive procedures may be recommended. These include injections, arthrocentesis, and jaw surgery.
TMJ disorders can produce a wide range of symptoms. Many of them are temporary and can be managed with conservative care. However, if pain or lack of function persists, professional help should be sought to determine the cause of the issue and the most effective ways to treat it.
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