All About TMJ Disorders
TMJ disorders refer to a group of disorders, which can include several different conditions. If you’ve been diagnosed with the condition, you’re likely to have questions. This basic overview guide is designed to provide basic information about types of TMJ disorders.
What are TMJ Disorders?
TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorders, are medical conditions that affect your jaw and surrounding muscles. There are three main types of TMJ disorders, which include Internal Derangement of the Joint, Degenerative Joint Disease, and Myofascial Pain Disorder. While these conditions can affect any person at any age, they’re mostly seen in people between the ages of 20 and 40. It is also seen more frequently in women than in men.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
TMJ conditions can present in several different ways, depending on the individual. Common TMJ symptoms include jaw pain, headaches, pain in the neck or shoulders, difficulties opening the mouth fully, earaches, ringing in the ears, tooth pain, chewing problems, and more. All the symptoms associated with TMJ disorders are related to teeth, jaw, face, or ears, as all these structures are closely related.
The severity of symptoms can differ quite a bit from person to person. Some people have very severe symptoms, whereas other people have very mild symptoms.
Diagnosis of TMJ Disorders
In some instances, a TMJ disorder may be discovered during a routine dentist visit. If your dentist notices you cannot fully open your mouth or you experience comfort, this may cause suspicions. If your dentist suspects a potential TMJ disorder, they may ask that you go for additional tests.
Several scans can help in the diagnosis of TMJ Disorders. One method of diagnosis is a panoramic x-ray, which shows your teeth and jawbone. These images can help your doctor look for signs of TMJ. In addition, your doctor may order CBCT scans. CBCT scans or cone-beam computed tomography scans, which give an incredibly detailed view of your facial anatomy. In some instances, an MRI scan can also show the position of your jaw.
Treatment Options for TMJ Disorders
Non-surgical treatments can help to manage bothersome symptoms of TMJ disorders. For mild conditions, these can be helpful to improve the quality of life. Applying moist heat or cold packs can help to relieve discomfort on and surrounding your jaw.
Watching what types of foods, you eat can also help improve symptoms. Soft foods, such as cottage cheese, macaroni, yogurt, and other soft items are easier on your jaw. You should aim to avoid difficult to chew foods that are crunchy or hard. In addition, people with TMJ disorders are advised to avoid chewing hard candies or gum.
Over-the-counter pain and inflammation management is another option to manage discomfort associated with TMJ disorders. While these can help occasionally, overuse of NSAIDs is also not advised.
Other Treatments for TMJ Disorders
If you’ve tried several non-surgical treatments without success, your doctor may turn to a more aggressive approach to manage your condition. Some more advanced treatments for TMJ disorders include:
- Trigger Point Injections: This procedure involves the injection of pain or numbing medications directly into the area of concern, known as trigger points. The medication is injected directly into the muscle.
- TENS: TENS stands for transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation, a therapy that is aimed to reduce pain by relaxing your jaw and face muscles. Some TENS machines may be covered by insurance for at-home use, or you may need to go to the doctor to use a TENS machine.
- In some instances, Botox injections can be used to reduce inflammation and muscle pain surrounding the jaw.
- Radio Wave Therapy: Using low-level electrical stimulation, some patients have had success in increasing blood flow to provide symptomatic relief.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you suspect you may have a TMJ disorder, it’s important to promptly discuss it with a trusted medical professional. Based on your individual symptoms and scans, your doctor can work with you to create a specialized treatment plan to help alleviate your pain and uncomfortable symptoms. Before trying any new treatment, it’s always a good idea to discuss it with your doctor.