Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or TMJ Dysfunction: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or TMJ dysfunction is a medical condition in which there is impairment with the joints of the jaw, the actual jaw, and the adjoining facial muscles which are responsible for chewing motion and jaw movements.
Causes of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)
- Any sort of trauma or an injury to the TMJ or muscles of the head or neck generally caused by a heavy blow or a whiplash injury.
- Direct injury impacting the joint disrupts the joint alignment which results in dislocation of the jaw.
- Certain actions like a wide yawn or opening the mouth wide for a dentist due to a tooth problem may result in the joint to be overstretched and causes a TMJ disorder.
- Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis of the TMJ. This is usually seen in the elderly.
- Sometimes, tension of muscles attached to the jaw can cause misalignment of the joint. This can be as a result of clenching of the teeth, grinding of the jaw, etc. Stress also causes a person to clench their teeth or tightening of the facial and jaw muscles.
Symptoms of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)
- Clicking of the joints, clunking, popping or grating sounds when opening or closing the mouth or when chewing.
- Pain, tenderness, or discomfort in the area of the joints of the jaw, face, neck and shoulders as well as around the ear area during chewing, speaking, or opening the mouth wide.
- Patient is not able open the mouth wide.
- The patient has difficulty with chewing or biting.
- Facial weakness and tiredness.
- Locking of the jaw.
- Jaw stiffness.
- The teeth may feel misaligned and may not fit together properly.
- Swelling of the face, either unilateral or bilateral.
Treatment of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)
- If it is a minor condition, then it generally resolves with self-treatment. Otherwise, consultation with a dentist is required.
- Moist heat or cold packs should be applied to the side of the face and temple region.
- Rest the jaw by not speaking and avoiding hard food items.
- Eating soft foods such as mashed potato, soup, eggs, milk, yogurt etc.
- NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen can be prescribed by the physician for pain relief.
- Anxiolytics medications can be given to help relieve stress.
- If TMJ disorder is caused by clenching of the teeth or biting when sleeping at night, then the physician may prescribe a bite guard to wear at night. Muscle relaxants are also given for clenching and biting.
- Antidepressants at a low dosage help in calming down the pain.
- The dentist may also show some stretching exercises for the jaw.
- If the TMJ disorder is due to some problem with the teeth, then corrective measures need to be undertaken like replacing the missing teeth, using crowns, bridges, or braces in order to balance the biting surfaces of the teeth.
- Extreme jaw movements should be avoided such as yawning, yelling, or singing.
- Avoid resting your chin on the hand or holding the telephone between shoulder and ear. A good posture needs to be practiced to get rid of neck and facial pain.
- Relaxation techniques are used for relaxing muscle tension in the jaw. The dentist can prescribe massage or physical therapy. Other stress reduction therapies such as biofeedback can also be considered.
- In some cases, surgery may be required for realignment of the joint.