TMJ disorder occurs when the temporomandibular joint causes pain in the jaw and joint between the upper and lower jaws. In most cases, the pain is temporary. Some people do suffer from chronic TMJ and require regular treatment. Surgery is sometimes required to treat chronic TMJ.
TMJ occurs when the disc between the joints in the temporomandibular joint erodes or moves out of alignment. When this happens, the bones can rub together and cause pain and pressure. Arthritis and injuries to the jaw can cause TMJ. Genetics and bone structure can also play a role.
The symptoms and severity of TMJ can vary by person. Some people only experience slight discomfort, but for others, the pain can be debilitating. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Pain in the jaw
- Tenderness in the jaw
- Pain while chewing
- Difficulty chewing
- Aching facial pain
- Locking of the joints in the jaw
- Clicking sounds when chewing
TMJ can sometimes be tricky to diagnose. The patient may experience symptoms that can’t necessarily be observed by a doctor. Some doctors can diagnose TMJ with a simple physical exam. Some of the tests they use include:
- Listening: Doctors will stand close to the patient and ask him or her to open and close their mouth. The doctor will listen and even feel for a TMJ or changes and movement in the jaw.
- Range of Motion: Doctors will observe the patient’s range of motion of the jaw to see if it is normal or if there is anything preventing it from moving properly.
- Pain Reaction: The doctor will press on the jaw in various location to see if the patient has any pain. This can also determine the severity of the pain and condition.
Some cases of TMJ will go away on their own. Others require treatment. Treatment options can vary and often depend on the severity of the condition. Common treatment options include:
- Pain Relievers: Medication can help relieve the pain associated with TMJ. It may need to be taken daily or as needed when a person has an episode of TMJ.
- Anti-inflammatory Drugs: Inflammation of the joints in the jaw can sometimes cause TMJ. Anti-inflammatory drugs can help reduce swelling and relieve the pain associated with TMJ.
- Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can help the patient learn to move the mouth or jaw properly to reduce TMJ or the symptoms of it. This is especially beneficial if the TMJ was caused by an injury to the jaw.
- Surgery: If the pain cannot be relieved or if the TMJ is chronic and debilitating, surgery may be the only option. The surgeon will replace the bad joint so it can function properly.
People who suffer from TMJ typically have reoccurring problems. Many are able to deal with it temporarily until the problem resolves on its own or with treatment, while others resort to surgery. Once treated, patients are able to talk, eat, and move their mouths without any issues.
- American College of Dentistry