The term is shortened because it’s a mouthful, but TMJ is temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders. These are a set of conditions that can cause pain in the jaw’s joint and in the muscles you use to move your jaw.
According to The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, about 10 million people in America suffer from TMJ.
At Grace & Bowman Orthodontics in Fort Walton Beach and Niceville, we can help determine the cause of your jaw pain and whether orthodontic treatment is warranted. Contact Grace & Bowman today to learn more or to schedule a visit.
For the majority of patients, pain in the jaw or surrounding muscles does not mean you have a serious condition, and the pain will often vanish without treatment.
But other patients suffer from long-term and recurring pain.
Researchers are trying to determine what causes TMJ and what the best ways to treat it are.
TMJ disorders and how they affect patients varies, but researchers generally agree that TMJ conditions are broken down into three key categories:
- Myofascial pain: This is discomfort in muscles the jaw needs to function.
- Arthritis: This is actually a group of degenerative or inflammatory joint problems that hit the temporomandibular joint.
- Internal: A dislocated jaw or displaced disc.
It remains unclear just how the myriad jaw joint and muscle conditions progress. Symptoms intensify and ease over time, but it’s unclear why.
Trauma to the jaw or temporomandibular can play a part in some TMJ cases. But for most jaw joint and muscle problems, researchers are unsure what the exact causes are.
For many TMJ sufferers, symptoms can appear with no obvious cause.
The NIDCR reports that research debunks the belief of many that poor bites or orthodontic braces cause TMJ disorders.
Symptoms of TMJ include pain in muscles used to chew and in jaw muscles. Other TMJ symptoms can be:
- Pain in the face, jaw or neck.
- Sore or stiff jaw muscles.
- Locking or poor movement of the jaw.
- Clicking, popping, grating in the jaw’s joint, usually when you open or close your mouth.
- Changes in how lower and upper teeth come together.
Treatment recommendations for TMJ are usually conservative because more research is needed regarding the safety and effectiveness of treatments.
Because most jaw joint and muscle problems are temporary and will not worsen, simple action is the best bet to relieve pain.
Efforts you can make to help reduce painful symptoms are:
- Eating soft foods
- Icing painful areas
- Avoiding jaw motions that bring pain. These can include yawning and gum chewing.
- Learning effective ways to reduce stress and relax
- Using jaw stretches and other exercises to improve jaw movement
If you are in pain, non-prescription pain relief medicine and anti-inflammatory drugs can help, but may not provide long-term relief.
Conservative actions can help reduce temporary pain, but they are not sure-fire cures for TMJ. If symptoms linger for long periods, return often or worsen, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your doctor so potential serious health problems can be ruled out.