TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders are a family of problems related to your complex jaw joint. If you have had symptoms like pain, locking or a “clicking” sound, you’ll be glad to know that these problems are more easily diagnosed and treated than they were in the past. Since some types of TMJ problems can lead to more serious conditions, early detection and treatment are important. No one treatment can resolve TMJ disorders completely and treatment may take time to be effective.
TMJ problems develop for many reasons. You might clench or grind your teeth, which tightens your jaw muscles and stresses your TMJ. A “bad” bite may have misaligned your joint or you may have a damaged jaw joint due to injury or disease. Whatever the causes, your symptoms may include pain, clicking or grating noises when you open your mouth, or trouble opening your mouth very wide.
The more times you answered “yes,” the more likely it is that you have a TMJ disorder. Understanding TMJ disorders will also help understand how they’re treated.
There are various treatment options that improve the harmony and function of your jaw. But, in large part, relief hinges on you. The most important role you can play throughout your treatment is resting your jaw so it can heal and regain stability. Keeping your teeth apart, practicing good posture, eating soft foods and reducing stress will also relax tense muscles and give your jaw a break. Other self-care techniques that may relieve your symptoms are ice, heat and exercise. If nothing else controls your pain when it flares up, medications might help. Aspirin is a very effective pain reliever. Your doctor may also prescribe a muscle relaxant or anti-inflammatory drug to help reduce swelling.