TMJ Disorders, commonly referred to as just “lockjaw”, include a family of disorders directly and indirectly related to the temporomandibular joint, or the jaw joint. This is one of the most frequently used joint in your body as it is responsible for speaking and chewing. The muscles that control this joint are also some of the most frequently used muscles. Most TMJ disorders result from dysfunction of either the joint itself or the muscles that control the joint. Since some TMJ disorders can become chronic and even debilitating conditions, early and accurate diagnosis and treatment is important.
What are the Symptoms?
Temporomandibular joint disorders are often associated with the following symptoms:
What Causes TMJ Pain?
There are two broad families of TMJ disorders that are each managed differently. TMJ pain is usually either caused by the muscles controlling the joint, myofascial pain, or by internal derangement of the joint itself. Myofascial pain is often associated with clenching and grinding the teeth and can worsen during times of emotional or psychological stress. Internal derangement of the joint can be caused by inflammation, trauma, bite misalignment, arthritis, and damage to the bone, cartilage, or ligaments of the joint.
What Can I Do To Manage My TMJ Disorder?
The first step to manage any TMJ disorder is proper diagnosis. This can be done after a thorough history, exam, and any necessary imaging. During your exam, Dr. Loveless will check for pain, tension, tenderness and trigger points. He will also evaluate your range of motion and determine what the best treatment is for the specific condition.
Muscle pain can be treated both medically and with physical therapy. Common medicines include:
Non-Medical Therapeutic Treatment
People with TMJ Disorders often go through periods or remission and sometimes have acute flare ups. During flare ups patients often receive therapy including:
If your TMJ disorder is due to chronic clenching, grinding, or a malocclusion, you will likely benefit from dental treatment for TMJ. These include:
Surgical treatment for TMJ disorders include arthrocentesis, arthroscopy, open joint arthroplasty and total joint replacement. These procedures are sometimes needed, but are reserved for severe cases that have failed other more conservative measures. Surgery is usually not considered unless the jaw can’t open, is dislocated and nonreducible, has severe degeneration or the patient has tried splint therapy unsuccessfully.