A guide to TMJ disorders
The temporomandibular joint, more commonly referred to as TMJ, acts like a sliding hinge connecting your skull to your jawbone. TMJ disorders are relatively common and can cause pain in the joint and muscles that control jaw movement. The predominant signs and symptoms of a TMJ disorder can include:
- Pain or tenderness of your jaw
- Aching pain in and around your ear
- Difficulty chewing or discomfort while chewing
- Aching pain in the face
- Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close the mouth
Cartilage and a shock-absorbing disk cover the parts of the bones that interact in the TMJ. Pain is the result of damage to one or both of those. Erosion, misalignment, cartilage damage from arthritis or damage caused by a blow or other impact are the traditional causes for a TMJ disorder. Evidence shows that even though anyone at any age can have a TMJ disorder, they occur more commonly in women, particularly those between the ages of 20 and 40.
If you think you have a TMJ disorder, your doctor, dentist or TMJ specialist will perform multiple tests and draft a treatment plan that is best for you. Pharmaceutical treatments include pain relievers, tricyclic antidepressants (used for pain relief), muscle relaxants and sedatives (for nighttime clenching). Nonpharmaceutical treatments consist of bite guards, physical therapy and counseling. When other methods are not working for you, your physician may recommend a more aggressive type of treatment. These advanced treatment options include arthrocentesis (inserting a needle to remove fluid buildup), injections (usually a corticosteroid) or surgery to repair or replace the joint.
If you have a TMJ disorder it is important to take Some additional precautions to avoid overusing your jaw muscle. You can do this by eating soft foods, cutting food into smaller pieces, steering clear of sticky or chewy foods, and not chewing gum. Stretchi