Treatment Of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders
TMJ disorders are conditions that specifically affect the TMJ (temporomandibular joints) causing a wide range of possible symptoms, with varying amounts of discomfort.
This pair of joints — one on each side in front of your ears — allows for jaw opening and closing, and which enables you to speak and eat. This joint is found on both sides of your head and connects your lower jaw to your skull.
What Causes TMJ Disorders?
Some of the known many possible causes of TMJ disorders include:
- Trauma leading to physical injury
- Grinding or clenching the teeth during sleep
- Autoimmune diseases
- Idiopathic causes as in dental surgery
- Oral infections affecting the TMJ
Genetic, hormonal, or environmental causes also abound. As more women experience TMJ disorders at a higher rate than men, research is currently ongoing to find out about hormonal etiologies for TMD.
Temporomandibular Disorders Symptoms
TMJ disorder’s symptoms are dependent largely on the causes and severity of the condition. Pain in the jaw and surrounding muscles is the most common symptom of TMJD. These symptoms, however, may show up on just one side of the face, or both.
Other symptoms typically associated with these disorders include:
- Pain felt in the face or neck
- Clicking or popping sound hear from the TMJ site
- Limited movement of the jaw
- Locking of the jaw
- Jaw muscle stiffness
- Malocclusion, which is a shift in the jaw, which then changes the way that the upper and lower teeth align
Treating Temporomandibular Joint Disorders
Currently, there are several conservative treatment methods to address TMJ-related dysfunction and/or pain. Our chiropractors received training as part of their 4 years in Chiropractic school to treat this often overlooked source of pain.
However, due ot the proximity of the jaw to the ear and teeth, it is often recommended to seek out treatment with a physician (ears, eyes, nose and throat specialist, or EENT) or dental professional to rule out non-musculoskeletal reason for your discomfort. Several different imaging tests can also be ordered, including X-rays and Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the jaw to see the bones and joint tissues or even an MRI of the jaw to detect if there are problems with the structure of the jaw.
A variety of treatment options are available, including both practitioner directed (myofascial therapy, trigger point release, intra-oral muscle therapy, acupuncture, joint manipulation, etc.), home or lifestyle changes which in many cases, can help treat TMJ disorders, especially mild to moderate conditions. If conservative treat is unsuccessful or your are suffering from a more serious condition, a consultation with a surgeon may be the next best step.
Self-care treatments involve reducing jaw movements wherein you’d be advised to avoid chewing gum, and to eat only soft foods, also avoiding the clenching or tensing the jaw. Gentle mouth and jaw exercises are also recommended, such as slight stretching of the jaw and massage of the affected muscles around the jaw. These have also been found to help and also a combination of both rest and gentle exercise (physiotherapy) may be recommended. A healthcare professional can advise on the most appropriate exercises to follow, as well as other lifestyle changes that could ease TMJ disorder symptoms.
In more extreme cases of TMJ disorder, surgery may be the most efficient treatment for pain and restricted movement such as when the TMJ disorder is caused by damage to the joint itself, and to the muscles surrounding the jaw, or by another different condition. In a case where when the actual joint has something wrong with it, surgery is the only recommended option, and in very severe cases of TMJ disorders, where the movement of the jaw is extremely restricted, and symptoms are long-lasting, the joint may need to be replaced. However, this treatment option is rarer to recommend.
Of you are experiencing jaw clicking, jaw pain or jaw-related headaches, visit our TMJ treatment page or call 613-728-9414 to schedule your appointment today.