TMJ Disorders: Gain Pain Relief from Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction

TMJ Disorders: Gain Pain Relief from Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction

Many patients describe their TMJ pain as an aching pain in and around their ears. They experience difficulty chewing or painful moments while chewing. It is an aching facial pain which may involve difficulty opening and closing your jaw, sensitive teeth, or a burning mouth. It feels like a locking of the joint, which is very descriptive of what it is. You may even hear your jaw make a clicking sound. Peter Milgrom, DDS says, “The prevalence of temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMJD) is between 5% and 12%.” His NIH Feb 8, 2018 article titled Prevalence of TMJD and its Signs and Symptoms acknowledges that the measurement of facial jaw pain and TMJD is complex. Having your jaw get stuck or locked is no fun. This article will answer some common TMJ questions. It will provide a foundational understanding about TMJ to help you on your journey towards pain relief.  

What is Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome?

Temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ) is when a person suffers from pain in their jaw joint for what ever reason that caused this medical problems. The TMJ connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull (temporal bone) in front of the ear; it is called a syndrome when becoming too invasive for daily activities and healthy sleep patterns.

What causes TMJ disorders?

Things that commonly trigger TMJ disorders (TMJD) include a serious injury to a person’s teeth or jaw, misalignment of the teeth or jaw, excessive teeth grinding or clenching, poor posture, chronic stress, arthritis, and frequent gum chewing. Any of these may cause the jaw joint to lock up.   Since the TMJ disorder involves a hinge action with sliding jaw movement, it is a complicated facial structure that is easily damaged. Your facial bone that interacts with the jay joints are covered in cartilage and separated by tiny and vital disks that work to absorb shock. A healthy set-up normally maintains smooth jay movement. Erosion of the disks, if the discs slip out of alignment, cartilage damage occurs, or an injury from a hard impact to the joint are all ways the joint’s efficiency may diminish.   Taut bands of muscles in myofascial can be trigger points when moving your jaw. An oral pain and maxillofacial specialist can treat the muscle pain and dysfunction prior to changing your bite.  

Can TMJ pain disappear on its own?

For most people suffering from TMJ discomfort, it will go away on its own over an extended time. Individuals suffering from acute jaw pain or long-periods of Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome pain should visit a dentist or TMJ specialist for treatment.  

What is TMD?

TMD stands for Temporomandibular Disorder. It is a condition that involves the temporomandibular joint and its adjoining muscles. Formerly called TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction) by many, TMD can affect any individual at any time; however, it’s typically associated with stress or changes in a person’s emotional status. This means that it is usually triggered by high levels of stress. “TMD” is multifactorial, and subsequently, it will be affected by different treatment modalities.  

What muscles in the jaw and head are impacted by TMJ?What muscles in the jaw and head are impacted by TMJ?

  A person’s TMJ muscles run along your jaw and cheeks, connecting behind the ears. Commonly these muscles may generate pain — even headaches if the jaw is overused or traumatized. When the muscles of a person’s jaw cramp up — such as if you grind your teeth — the pain can spread. It typically impacts your other TMJ muscles alongside your cheeks; additionally, it may extend to the sides and top of your head. This is what causes a TMJ headache.  
  • Masseter muscle (the primary chewing muscle)
  • Eminence and Socket
  • Soft disk protects joint
  • Ear canal (Plugged ears)
  • Temporomandibular joint
  • Lateral Pterygoid Muscle bring jaw forward
  There are many muscles that our jay movements impact. Some reflect the occlusal role in TMJ disorders but there are many factors including sleep, breathing, and more. The good news is that rarely is surgery necessary to fix a TMJ problem. Often we see someone struggling with phyhological stresses trigger TMJ symptoms. We see temporomandibular joint disorders with relevant risk factors often in athletes with head, neck or jaw injuries. Certain sports, particularly contact sports, pose an increased risk for the temporomandibular joint if it takes a hit. The stress of athletic performance also may be a contributing factor. These may lead someone to use antidepressants and discover that SSRIs often triggers jaw clenching.  

What type of doctor treats TMJ pain?

Typically people suffering from jaw pain talk to their dentist first. The dentist may refer you to an oral and maxillofacial specialist. Another TMJ expert is called an otolaryngologist. This is an ear, nose, and throat doctor, who is also known as an ENT specialist. Some advanced dental practices specialize in jaw disorders. This type of dentist is called a prosthodontist or a prosthetic dentist. The most important thing is to seek further treatment from a TMJ doctor when you need it.   Since your pain may be a muscular problem rather than joint (TMD) or dental issue, by visiting a maxillofacial specialist you’ll know for sure. The jaw issue is often hidden at the onset – making it important to see a specialist for an early diagnosis.  

Can TMJ show up on xrays?

Yes. A TMJ x-ray is as known as TMJ Imaging. Your pain specialist may examine your jaw to determine if there is swelling or tenderness if you have other symptoms of a TMJ disorder. For new patients requesting pain help, X-rays of the jaw, including a CT scan may be done to see your bones and joint tissues. An MRI of a person’s jaw may show when problems with the structure of the jaw exist.  

What happens during a TMJ surgery?

This form of surgery, if needed, is known as TMJ arthroscopy. “In some cases, arthroscopic surgery can be as effective for treating various types of TMJ disorders as open-joint surgery. A small thin tube (cannula) is placed into the joint space, an arthroscope is then inserted and small surgical instruments are used for surgery”, according to Mayo Clinic. Occlusal appliances, physical pain therapy, and/or counseling are options that may be encouraged before any jaw surgery recommendations are considered.   Their TMJ disorders page also more extensively covers corticosteroid injections into the jaw joint, TMJ arthroscopy, open-joint surgery, and a modified condylotomy.

What can I Try to Relieve my TMJ Pain?

Things to try if you are seeking what you can do on your own for jaw pain relief:

  • Eat softer foods. Avoid things like nuts and popcorn for a trial time period.
  • Try low does of an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.
  • Check your posture and avoid resting your chin on your hand a lot.
  • Lit extreme or unnecessary jaw movements like chewing gum too often.
  • When stationary, set your jaw with your teeth slightly apart more often.
  • Try ice or heat packs for temporary TMJ pain relief.

5 Star Google Review | April 18, 2023

“My experience with Minnesota Head and Neck Pain Clinic was amazing. I’ve struggled with TMD for over 10 years with little to no relief after trying many different interventions. The team at this clinic, especially Dr. Thakur, were attentive and proactive with my care and concerns- from just listening to completing different referrals both inside and outside the clinic. They provided hands-on/medical interventions, but also gave me the tools and knowledge to start managing my pain independently and improving my overall health. Additionally, the billing team was amazing- doing a lot of the research and heavy lifting to help make services as affordable as possible.   Prior to working with MN head and neck pain clinic I was in almost constant pain and discomfort that impacted most areas of my life. Today my pain is more than manageable and my overall quality of life has greatly improved.” – Alexa Anderson on Google
  If you are wondering how to gain pain relief from chronic jaw joint pain, you have come to the right place.  

Call the MN Head & Neck Clinic to gain help: (763) 577-2484


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