TMJ dysfunction is a medical condition that affects the jaw muscles and nerves. Several factors can cause this disorder, which we will mention in this article later on. Aside from that, we will also discuss in this article what a TMJ specialist can do to address TMJ dysfunction. So, let’s get going and find out more information about this medical condition.
What is a temporomandibular joint (TMJ)?
A temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a joint that serves as the connection between the mandible or lower jaw and the skull. This joint allows you to talk, chew, yawn, or move your jaw from side to side or up and down. Additionally, the jaw joint has muscles that control its position and movement.
A temporomandibular joint can develop a disorder that can affect its function significantly. Additionally, this joint is one of the most complex joints in the body, making it not easy to address its disorder.
The exact causes of TMJ dysfunction are still unknown to dentists. However, they manage to list down a few possible reasons according to the conditions they went through with their patients. It includes the following:
- Jaw injury
- TMJ arthritis
- Poor posture in the neck and upper back muscles
The temporomandibular joint disorder can develop if there is a problem with the fit between the upper and lower joint, the jaw joint, and the facial muscles that control chewing and jaw movement. The following symptoms can help you determine if you have TMJ dysfunction or not.
- You might experience orofacial pain. TMJ disorders involve discomfort in the jaw, mouth, face, and other associated structures. Orofacial pain can significantly affect one’s quality of life.
- When you have this disorder, your mouth will have a limited ability to open widely.
- Additionally, you can also experience a lock or stuck of your jaw.
- Another sign of this disorder is hearing click, pop, or grate sounds in the jaw joints.
- You would also feel facial exhaustion.
- Moreover, chewing will be a little difficult for you.
- You may even experience swelling on the side of your face.
On the other hand, a TMJ disorder can also make you experience headache, tooth pain, neck aches, dizziness, and earaches. It can also lead to hearing problems. In this case, wouldn’t you think of consulting your doctor by knowing these symptoms already?
Diagnosing TMJ dysfunction
Since the symptoms of this disorder are similar to other oral conditions, the TMJ specialist has to make thorough examinations. During this period, you might undergo a panoramic x-ray. This x-ray shows your entire jaws, TMJ, and teeth.
Besides that, you might also undergo an MRI to view soft tissues or a CT scan for the bony details of the joint. After these initial examinations, your doctor might recommend you to a maxillofacial surgeon for further treatment.
A correct diagnosis is essential so that patients will receive the most appropriate treatment for their medical condition.
Available treatment options for TMD
The treatment for a temporomandibular joint disorder can either be simple self-care practices, conservative therapies, injections, and open surgery. Usually, open surgery is the last treatment option that comes to mind of a surgeon. Please see below the common treatments applicable for a TMJ disorder.
Basic treatment practices
These are the simple practices that you can apply at home to address your TMD.
- Hot or cold packs application
- Over-the-counter medications
- Eating soft foods
- Wearing a splint or night guard
- Corrective dental treatments, such as missing teeth replacement
- Preventing extreme jaw movements
- Practice good posture
- Loosen up jaw using relaxation techniques
If the simple self-care practices did not work, your doctor might recommend the following options.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Ultrasound or deep heat treatment
- Trigger-point injections
- Radio wave therapy
- Low-level laser therapy
As we mentioned earlier, this is the last resort of an oral surgeon to cure TMJ disorder. You may even consider asking for a second or third opinion if you are not sure about it. On the other hand, the type of surgery you will undergo depends on the severity of your condition.
- Arthrocentesis: It is a minor procedure that addresses a locked jaw. The surgeons will use a unique tool to remove the damaged tissue, dislodge a disc stuck in the joint, or unstick the joint itself.
- Arthroscopy: This procedure involves making a small incision in front of the ear and inserting a small, thin device that contains a lens and light.
- Open-joint surgery: It is the traditional surgery type, which includes making a long incision to insert instruments. However, it results in a longer healing time and an increased risk of developing scars and nerve injury.
Final thoughts about TMJ dysfunction
Generally speaking, TMJ disorder is usually not severe and goes away after a few months. It even involves mild symptoms and minimal inconvenience. However, some cases are different. There are TMJ disorders that can become serious and last for an extended period.
As a result, the patient with a long-lasting TMJ disorder can experience a lower quality of life. At this point, it would be best to ask a medical professional about it. This way, you can receive your diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
On the other hand, if we will base on the symptoms mentioned above, you can prevent TMD from occurring. You only have to make some adjustments in a few aspects of your life. In this case, why let yourself go through all treatments when you can prevent it beforehand.
TMJ dysfunction is not something you should fear. However, it would be best to bring yourself to the TMJ medical specialist if it affects you significantly. Acting on it earlier is better than prolonged suffering. If you feel pain along your neck due to TMJ, book a session here and make the ache go away.