TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, the joints connecting the skull and jawbone. They are used in countless movements of the mouth, as in eating, speaking, and even smiling. Many conditions may affect the joints and nearby muscles and ligaments. These conditions are often grouped together and called TMJ or more accurately, TMD.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD) are actually quite common, and may present in a wide array of symptoms. Mild symptoms, such as frequent pops and clicks, to occasional aches in the jaw to much more severe, ranging from tenderness in the region to painful headaches to increased tooth sensitivity Symptoms may be aggravated by eating, talking or movement of the mouth. TMD may result in facial swelling or fatigue of the facial muscles. Lock-jaw may also be a sign to seek TMJ treatment.
TMJ can be difficult to diagnosis, as there is still much about the disease that is not understood. It may be misdiagnosed as an ear infection or toothache, as there is often no clear cause. Temporomandibular treatments vary greatly depending on the severity of the symptoms. Self-care techniques are commonly prescribed for mild-moderate cases. These treatments may include, sticking to a softer diet, massage, limiting jaw movement, and wearing a nightguard (bruxism appliance) to stop the clenching or grinding of the teeth. Over the counter pain medications like Ibuprofen may also bring relief, but are not recommended as a long-term solution. If stress is a trigger for a patient’s TMJ pain, they may need to make lifestyle adjustments.
If the pain persists, Botox injections may be recommended to partially paralyze the muscle, working as a temporary cure. A patient may need to undergo orthodontic treatment if the alignment of the teeth is viewed as the root cause, in order to put the teeth into a more balanced occlusion. In extreme cases, jaw repositioning surgery may be required. This is a last resort to remove scar tissue and cartilage and to reposition the joints and jaw bone.