Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders (TMJ) refer to the conditions that cause discomfort in the jaw joint and muscles. Scientists don’t actually know the exact causes of TMJ, but dentists believe that they come from problems with the jaw or some parts of the joint itself. There is no proof that jaw noises (like clicking sounds) indicate a TMJ disorder.
In most cases, the pain and discomfort from TMJ disorders are temporary and occasional. The symptoms are also likely to go away with little to no treatment. Some individuals, however, develop severe and long-term symptoms. These may include a tired feeling in the face, uncomfortable bite or trouble chewing, and swelling on the side of the face.
Experts believe that more studies are necessary on the safety and effectiveness of TMJ treatments. Salt Lake City dentists note this is why conservative treatments or those that do not invade the tissues of the face or jaw are usually recommended. These focus on self-care practices such as applying ice packs, eating soft foods, learning relaxing techniques, and avoiding extreme jaw movements.
Conservative treatments also include pain medication and stabilization splints. Some over-the-counter pain medicines may provide temporary relief from pain and discomfort. The dentist may also recommend an appliance called bite guard or stabilization splint, which fits over the upper and lower teeth. This appliance, however, should be only used for a short time and should not cause changes in the bite.
If basic treatments won’t work, the dentist may suggest other choices. There is the transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), which is a type of therapy that uses low-level electrical joints to relax the joint. Ultrasound treatment may also be advised to apply deep heat to a sore or immovable joint.
Surgical treatments are another option. These, however, are controversial and should only be considered if the patient has tried all available options and still feels severe pain. It is important for patients to know why they need surgery, including the risks and benefits. It is best to have a clear understanding of what to expect from the procedure.
Those who think they have TMJ disorder should remember that the discomfort may go away on its own. Conservative treatments are advisable, as well as consulting the dentists for the most reversible treatments possible.