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- What Is TMJ/TMD?
- Diagnosing TMJ/TMD
- What Causes TMJ/TMD?
- Help for TMJ/TMD
- More Information about TMJ/TMD
What Is TMJ/TMD?
TMJ is an abbreviation for temporomandibular joint. Most people mistakenly believe that TMJ is the name for jaw disorders. The correct name is Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD). Jaw pain can be provoked by many other factors besides the TMJ joint itself.
Pain, noises in the joints between the upper and lower jaws and a tendency for the jaw to lock when the mouth is opened wide can indicate TMD.
How Is TMJ or TMD Diagnosed?
A dentist makes the diagnosis after discussing your symptoms and performing an examination. X-rays and sometimes MRIs or CT scans are used. Signs of other health conditions are considered as well, as sinus problems, toothache and ear infections may present similar symptoms.
Your dentist may refer you to an oral or maxillo-facial surgeon if the problem is beyond his or her scope of practice.
What Causes TMJ or TMD?
The joints between the upper and lower jaws may be out of alignment or misshapen. Arthritis, whiplash, other injuries or congenital malformations may precipitate development of TMD, as well as dental problems such as crooked or missing teeth. Pain may also occur due to stress or a poor bite.
The most common symptoms of TMD are pain in the jaw and clicking, grating or popping noises within the TMJ. Neck, shoulder, ear, facial pain and headache may occur, and swelling may be present. Symptoms can be present on one or both sides of the jaw, and may be intermittent or constant. Symptoms are generally made worse when the mouth is opened wide, and the jaw may also lock open or closed.
Clenching or grinding of teeth without awareness puts excess pressure on the TMJ and worsens symptoms. Diverse causes such as anxiety, poor posture and a lack of body awareness can exacerbate symptoms. Pain may also be worsened by resting the head on your hand while sitting or using your shoulders and neck to hold a telephone.
Help for TMJ or TMD
Dentists and surgeons may recommend non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen. NSAIDS may precipitate bleeding, stomach upset and other health concerns, and many people cannot tolerate them. Muscle relaxant medications may also be prescribed. Medications that reduce anxiety are sometimes prescribed as are small doses of antidepressants. All of the medications offer benefits but they have significant side effects. Some anxiety reducing agents are addicting. All of them stress the liver, and many of the medications cause drowsiness.
Homeopathic remedies offer a safe, effective alternative to pharmaceuticals. Natural health experts report excellent results. The remedies are non-addicting and do not cause drowsiness. They are very well tolerated and do not stress the liver and organs of excretion, and may be effective immediately. However, they work best when taken consistently for an extended period of time. Homeopathic remedies diminish pain, swelling and anxiety, and are easily administered. They also promote relaxation of the muscles and reduce pressure on the TMJ.
Other treatments for TMD include the use of warm or cool packs, which can be very effective at relieving tenderness and swelling and enhancing joint mobility, and specially designed mouth guards or splints which are often prescribed by dentists.
A variety of therapies using technological devices are beneficial as well, including low level laser therapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and ultrasound treatments. Specialized trigger point injections into the TMJ may also be employed.
Massage and physical therapists also offer a variety of interventions worth investigating, as exercises and physical therapies can be beneficial in the case of TMD.
Finally, surgery is considered the last option. Surgical procedures vary dependent upon individual needs.
More Information about TMJ or TMD
- Eat a soft diet free of chewy, hard and sticky foods. Eat foods that are bite-sized, or cut your food into bite-sized pieces so you will not have to open your mouth widely. Do not chew gum.
- See your dentist as recommended.
- Avoid opening your mouth wide. Avoid activities that require singing or shouting.
- Practice relaxing the muscles of your upper body and face. Make meditation or another relaxing practice a part of your daily routine.
- Take steps to decrease stress.
- Notice if you are clenching your facial muscles or grinding your teeth. If you note that you have these habits, learn some breathing exercises that you can do whenever you find yourself engaging in those activities.
TMJ? TMD? Whatever you call it, help is available now. Start today. Get comfortable.