Anytime you feel pain or discomfort with your temporomandibular joint (TMJ), it's important to pay attention. After all, the TMJ is what connects your jaw to the skull, and it also enables simple functions that we all use every day such as eating and speaking. But when the joint suffers some kind of injury, it can not only upset things you take for granted, but it can also be a source of acute pain known as TMJ syndrome or TMD (temporomandibular disorder).
Whether it's due to an injury of the teeth or jaw -- or misalignment, teeth grinding, stress, posture or overuse -- TMJ syndrome can also present itself with jaw popping or clicking, earaches or ear pain, popping sounds in the ears, headaches, stiff jaw muscles, pain in the temples and, in some severe cases, locking of the jaw.
But can TMJ cause inflammation? Let's take a closer look.
While most of the symptoms of TMJ have to do with pain, stiffness or limited mobility of the jaw and nearby facial structures or muscles, the root of all of it is injury or inflammation. Unless you've suffered a facial injury, TMJ causes are likely attributable to inflammation from overuse or stress, which eventually builds up and presents as general nerve inflammation, difficulty chewing or moving the jaw, swelling in the face, headaches, migraines and bruxism (tooth grinding).
In fact, patients that have a history of chronic inflammation or arthritis have an increased risk of developing TMD, as do those that are more sensitive to pain or stress, which can cause an increase in clenching and other issues. Furthermore, patients with inflammatory musculoskeletal disorders are also prone to developing TMJ syndrome due to the presence of inflammation in and around the TMJ.
If you believe your TMJ syndrome is caused by inflammation, not an injury or other issue, the good news is that there are TMJ inflammation treatments that can reduce swelling and discomfort associated with TMD. One such treatment is to use ice or cold packs to areas of the joint to battle inflammation.
Patients can also take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, Aleve, Tylenol, Advil or Motrin, which helps fight TMJ inflammation from within. Other treatments for an inflamed TMJ include reducing overuse from chewing tough foods or gum, gentle massage of the jaw and neck muscles, and stress management to help avoid tensing up.
If your TMJ is getting worse with no relief in sight, you may need professional TMJ treatment. While your TMJ may not be curable, you can manage your symptoms and the pain and discomfort associated with a TMJ issue via various approaches.
A bite guard or dental splint can help keep your teeth aligned and prevent grinding, one of the main causes of TMJ syndrome. Sometimes, even Botox or acupuncture can be used to relax the jaw muscles, and physical therapy is another way that can help increase range of motion and strength in the jaw.
Certain prescription medicines can also help reduce inflammation and pain associated with TMJ, such as muscle relaxants, strong anti-inflammatory drugs, steroid injections, sleep medicines and even benzodiazepines.
But for real TMJ relief, some will say that the only option is dental surgery. However, even most dentists admit that no procedure is guaranteed to eliminate the inflammation and pain caused by TMD. Here at the TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre of Raleigh-Durham, our goal is to help patients manage their TMJ with non-surgical procedures that actually work. Contact us to schedule an appointment.
TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre of Raleigh-Durham