TMJ Treatment and Causes

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is a condition where you experience pain in your jaw joint. The jaw joint is responsible for hinging your mouth open and close. Additionally, the TMJ connects your jaw to the skull. If you have issues with the muscles or joints, you can experience pain or impaired movement. 

The symptoms of TMJ vary. With mild cases of TMJ, you may hear or feel a popping or clicking in your jaw joint. You may not feel any pain, but you notice a sound when you open or close your mouth. Over time, you may develop more pain or discomfort, especially if it worsens. Your jaw itself can begin to ache, or you can have difficulty chewing. 

At times, the pain may refer to other places. (“Refer” means that the pain is located in one area, but you can feel it in another area). For example, the pain may be in your jaw joint, but you can experience pain across your face, in and around your ear, or down your neck. In extreme TMJ cases, your jaw can actually lock, impeding your ability to open and close your mouth

man using hand massage cheek from TMJ treatment dentist in Bethesda Maryland

Causes

Generally, it is hard to figure out the cause of TMJ because everyone is different. 

Overusing the joint can cause wear and tear on the joint. You may see overuse in people who frequently chew gum. Over time, the disk in the joint can erode, causing pain. Another reason overuse can cause pain is due to the muscles. If you use any muscle group too much, it will cause pain. Your jaw muscles are no different. 

Grinding your teeth (bruxism) can cause excess pressure and strain on your jaw muscles. Your jaw cannot handle the extra stress, which causes pain. Additionally, grinding your teeth can also increase your chances of tooth decay and tooth loss

If you experience physical trauma to your jaw, you can develop TMJ. Therefore, damage to the joint can affect its ability to function without pain. 

Arthritis is a condition that affects the joints. Specifically, arthritis causes pain and inflammation in the joints. So, this can happen in your jaw as well. 

Treatment

There are several ways that you can treat TMJ depending on its causes. 

If you overuse the joint, you can minimize its movement. This means that you can avoid chewing gum or excessive snacking. Additionally, you may go a small period of time limiting your speaking so that your jaw and rest. 

If you talk to your dentist, they may recommend a mouthguard for you to wear at night. This can help put your jaw in the correct alignment and minimize the stress on your joints. 

You can try to take some over-the-counter pain medications to minimize your discomfort. These medications can reduce the pain and inflammation in your joints. 

Physical therapy is an option for some cases of TMJ. In fact, a physical therapist can help realign your jaw or strengthen the muscles to specific exercises. 

In more extreme cases, you may need surgery to help improve the function of your jaw.