Your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are the joints that connect your jawbone and skull. If you press your hands in front of each ear and open and close your mouth, you can feel the joints flexing. Most of the time, your temporomandibular joints function normally, and you don’t even think about them. Every moment you chew food, talk or swallow, though, the joints are working.
You need to seek TMJ treatment when you have a problem with the muscles or joints in your jaw. Should you experience any sustained or intense pain when doing normal things like chewing, talking or swallowing, contact Dr. John Koutsoyiannis at Soho clinic for an appointment. Some of the other symptoms that indicate you need treatment for TMJ dysfunction include:
- Ear aches or headaches without another cause
- Jaw locking so you can’t move it
- Feeling clicking, grating or popping in your jaw when opening or closing your mouth
Signs You Need to See a TMJ Specialist
Several factors may be responsible for the onset of TMJ. It may seem that this condition developed out of the blue, but there are usually precursors. The likelihood of having TMJ syndrome increases if you:
- Feel high stress levels
- Chew gum all the time
- Suffer from chronic inflammatory arthritis
- Have a poor posture, especially in your neck and upper back
- Feel pain from a recent jaw trauma
- Have teeth that are poorly positioned
Dr. John can accurately diagnose your symptoms and create a TMJ treatment plan that specifically addresses your needs. When you meet with him, he reviews your medical history and conducts a physical exam to determine the cause of your jaw pain. While there aren’t any specific tests for diagnosing TMJ dysfunction, how you respond to the exam helps determine what your dentist decides to do next.
Treatment for TMJ
TMJ treatment doesn’t mean that you require surgery. The symptoms of TMJ tend to respond well when treated with relaxation tips, stress reduction and home remedies. Some of the common home remedy suggestions include:
- Only eating soft foods until the pain subsides
- Avoid chewing gum as it aggravates your condition
- Massaging or stretching your jaw and neck muscles
- Applying a hot or cold pack to the area to relieve the pain
- Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen or acetaminophen
If these home remedies prove to be ineffective for relieving your pain, Dr. John and the dental team at Sohosmile have other medical options available. TMJ may not necessarily be cured with any of these methods, but you’ll experience temporary or long-term pain relief. Medical treatment options include:
- Physical therapy exercises to strengthen the muscles of your jaw
- A dental splint, which is a device that’s placed in your mouth to prevent your teeth from grinding — a dental splint goes by other names, too, such as a night guard, stabilization splint or occlusal splint
- Trigger point acupuncture or Botox injections
- Prescription-strength pain medications, including muscle relaxers
- Nerve pain medications that act as a pain management technique
If your case of TMJ dysfunction is severe enough, dental surgery may be the only effective treatment for TMJ. Your TMJ specialist offers two basic types of surgery:
- Arthrocentesis and arthroscopy. These outpatient arthroscopic procedures offer physical treatments to the actual joints. Both are considered minimally invasive surgeries, but they can correct your TMJ condition. Typical recovery time is about a week for either procedure.
- Jaw joint replacement. If your entire jaw joint needs to be replaced, a rare diagnosis, you need a more extensive surgery requiring multiple days in the hospital. Typical recovery time after this procedure ranges from four to six weeks.