It’s estimated that as many as 10 million Americans are affected by temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders, commonly known as "TMJ.” TMJ can cause pain and discomfort in the jaw joints and muscles.
For some, TMJ is mild and symptoms can improve over time.
For others, TMJ can cause long-lasting, chronic, and debilitating pain.
What Causes TMJ?
Scientists and researchers are unsure exactly what causes TMJ disorders. For some, trauma to the jaw or temporomandibular joint plays a role. But not every case of TMJ begins with trauma.
Because the condition is more common in women than men, scientists are exploring a link between hormones and TMJ.
Signs and Symptoms of TMJ
Jaw noises alone do not indicate the presence of TMJ - particularly jaw noises without pain or limited movement.
The most common symptom of TMJ is pain in the chewing muscles or jaw joints. Other signs include:
- Radiating pain in the jaw, neck or face
- Jaw muscle stiffness
- Limited jaw movement or locking
- Painful clicking, popping, or grating in the jaw joint
- A change in the way upper and lower teeth fit together
When you’re suffering from discomfort or pain from TMJ, you want effective relief.
For many people, TMJ relief can be found in the comfort of your home using the following self-care techniques:
- Applying ice packs
- Eating soft foods
- Avoiding extreme jaw movements such as large yawns and gum chewing
- Practicing jaw exercises
- Massaging jaw muscles
- Practice good posture
Dental TMJ Treatments
When gentle attempts at self-care aren’t working to relieve TMJ symptoms, a phone call to a qualified dentist could be the next step.
Your dentist may recommend splint therapy, in which an oral appliance (also called a splint or bite guard) is worn over the upper or lower teeth for a short period of time.
Splint therapy is one of the most commonly used and more conservative dental treatments used for TMJ.
A meta-analysis of splint therapy effectiveness revealed that this dental therapy can result in a significant decrease in pain and TMJ clicking, as well as significantly reducing the frequency of painful episodes for patients.
Neuromuscular Dentistry is a type of dentistry that retrains the muscles, tissues, and nerves, and brings the jaw into alignment in its relaxed state.
This allows the jaw to perform basic function (such as chewing or speaking) without straining and injuring surrounding areas. This treatment requires regular visits and can range from six months to a year, depending on the patient’s condition.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapies
Over the past decade, behavior-based therapies have been studied more extensively to determine their effectiveness for pain management.
Studies are revealing that these behavior-based therapies may be effective tools for relieving TMJ pain.
In one controlled study, researchers split TMJ sufferers into two groups. The first group received a “standard” TMJ treatment involving the placement of a dental splint, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and a soft food diet.
The second group was assigned the same “standard” treatment plus 6 sessions of cognitive-behavioral therapy over the course of 6 weeks.
Both groups reported, on average, a 40% decrease in TMJ pain levels. However, the cognitive-behavioral therapy group resulted in greater decreases in pain over 52 weeks than the standard treatment group.
Researchers concluded that adding cognitive behavioral therapy to treatment appeared to have advantages for long-term pain relief.
Do You Need TMJ Relief?
If you have pain or discomfort in your jaw, face, or neck that’s worsening, interfering with the quality of your life, or leading to other conditions such as sleeplessness or depression, it may be the right time to get help for your TMJ.
Finding the right treatment provider is important.
There is no certified specialty in treating temporomandibular disorders. Therefore, it’s important to find a dental or medical professional who understands musculoskeletal disorders.
In the greater Sacramento area, patients turn to Dr. Jon, DDS for help with TMJ relief. Dr. Jon ranks in the top 5% of dentists worldwide in regards to bite alignment and TMJ. His extensive training and knowledge of musculoskeletal disorders give him the expertise to treat TMJ disorders. Dr. Jon uses neuromuscular dentistry, orthotics, and cutting-edge technology to bring TMJ relief to his patients.
If you want relief from the pain of TMJ, schedule your free consultation with Dr. Jon, DDS today.