TMJ: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
If you are experiencing constant pain on one side of your face, jaw, or the areas around your ear, this could be TMJ disorder. Along with the pain are difficulties in moving your jaw as well as a popping or clicking sound. If you think you have TMJ disorder, read along so you’ll know more about its causes and the available TMJ treatments.
What is the TMJ or Jaw Joint?
We have two TMJs. These joints connect our lower jaw, our mandible, with the skull’s temporal bone on each side. The joints are very complex which allows us three-dimensional movements. The temporal bone and lower jaw are connected as ball and socket. In between them is a cushioning disk.
We have cheek muscles as well as muscles in the temples that allow movement of the lower jaw. TMJ disorder can be caused by any of the parts of the TMJ which include the joint, the muscles, or the disk.
What is TMJ Disorder?
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. This is your jaw joints found on the left and right side of the jaw. When you have dysfunction and pain on your TMJ or with the surrounding muscles, then you may have a TMJ disorder.
It can be challenging to identify the causes of the pain and other symptoms of the disorder. However, most of the cases of this disorder get resolved on their own without any complex remedies. But we will share with you the available treatments that you can try. Surgery and bridgework are the last resort and would be best determined by your doctor if it is necessary in your case.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
Since the TMJ is a joint, it is prone to orthopedic issues. This includes disk problems, strained ligaments and tendons, and inflammation. The TMJ disorder is influenced by age, genes, and gender, to which women are more at risk than men.
One of the symptoms of this disorder is the pain that you feel in your cheeks or the masseter muscles as well as the temples or the temporalis muscles. These areas of the face are where the muscles responsible for the jaw movement are located. You may feel some stiffness and soreness when you wake up. This is most likely because of grinding or clenching your teeth while you’re asleep.
This is another symptom of the TMJ disorder. There can be a clicking or popping sound from the joint upon closing or opening the mouth. Usually, this clicking sound is because of the disk shifting inside the TMJ. The clicking sound in itself does not indicate that you have a disorder of the TMJ. But if it accompanied with limited jaw movement and pain, then this may indicate a TMJ disorder.
What You Can Do if You Have TMJ Disorder
Here are some of the things that you can do if you are suffering from the symptoms of TMJ. Be sure to talk to your doctor as well so that he or she can recommend other steps to treat the disorder.
Go for Soft Food
Your jaw needs time to rest. Include in your diet soft food that will not require you to chew a lot. Also, avoid food that is large or thick and requires your mouth to be opened wide. Refrain from eating chewy, crunchy, and hard food, too. This will stress your jaw.
Hot or Cold Compress
When you feel pain on your jaw, apply a hot or cold compress. This will help in relieving the pain. For some, hot compress works better than cold compress. For others, it’s the other way around. Try to see which of these works for you in making you feel more at ease while you are experiencing the symptoms.
Ask your doctor for medications or prescriptions if you feel that the pain is intolerable already. He or she may recommend the following:
- Antidepressants – low doses of antidepressants can control or reduce pain.
- Anti-anxiety meds – these will help in relieving the stress you are feeling while going through the pain of TMJ disorder.
- Muscle relaxants – these help in loosening the tightened jaw muscles. It is recommended for those who clench or grind their teeth while asleep.
- Aspirin or Ibuprofen – these anti-inflammatory meds will help in relieving the swelling and pain. These can be bought at pharmacies without any need for prescriptions.
Having TMJ disorder can be challenging. The pain can affect your work or how you do your daily tasks. You may even find it difficult to eat and sleep because of the symptoms. The fear of having a locked jaw can be stressful on its own.
If you have any symptoms of TMJ disorder, visit your doctor immediately so that he or she can recommend the best treatment for you. You can try the remedies we have shared here. But it is always best to seek the advice of your physician so that you can have the best care.
If you have TMJ disorder, feel free to share with us in the comments what your most effective remedies are so that other readers with TMJ disorder can try them out as well.