Have you ever experienced  joint pain, horrible isn’t it? Nobody, will show a relaxed demeanor after hearing about joint pain. We all experience joint pain, either due to some accident while playing, driving, working or due to some disease or deficiency in our body. Joints are type of hinges that connect bones in our skeletal system. They are very important for our movement, and other bodily functions. There are many diseases that can affect our joints, in any part of body, therefore, maintaining joint health is very important.

What is the Function of Temporomandibular Joint?

If you are experiencing pain in mouth, while chewing, yawning or other jaw movements, then, you might have a problem in your joint. However, before jumping to conclusions or rushing to a TMJ specialist, it is important to understand about your TMJ joint and its functions.

Temporomandibular joint is the name given to joint or juncture that connects jaw with the temporal bones of skull, located in front of each ear. As you may have guessed, the name for this joint comes from ‘temporal”( meaning near temples of head) and “mandibular” (meaning lower jaw). This important joint helps us to move our mouth up and down, side by side, so that we are able to chew, talk , yawn etc.

Causes and Symptoms of Temporomandibular Disorder

TMD or TMJ disorder is the problem that hampers the movement of this joint and causes pain, discomfort or locking of this joint. The problem may be in the facial muscles, jaw bone or in the joint itself. The TMD includes wide range of disorders like muscle problems affecting jaws, pain in the face around the jaw joint, or problems within joint itself.

Causes of TMD

TMJ disorder can be caused by a whiplash, physical injury to joint due to blow or strike, Bruxism-grinding your teeth during sleep, Arthritis, stress- leading to tightening of facial muscles and clenching teeth that can lead to TMD.

Symptoms of TMD

Before labelling any kind of pain in your oral cavity or face as TMD, it is important to consider these important symptoms.

  • Pain in jaw, ear, neck or shoulders.
  • Feeling pain and obstruction while opening your mouth wide open.
  • Jaws getting locked or stuck in a opening or closed position.
  • Swelling of face, feeling tenderness in jaw muscles.
  • Other symptoms like toothaches, earaches, headaches, ringing sound in the ear etc.

Treatment Options Available for TMJ Disorder

Before going for any treatment procedure for your TMD, it is important to get an appropriate diagnosis by a dentist or TMJ specialist. The treatment procedures vary from person to person depending on the severity of disorder. In some persons, the TMD symptoms may get better over time or can be treated by using some basic and conservative methods. However, in other cases a surgery or other advanced procedure may be required. The type of treatment can be best decided by any TMJ specialist. Here are some treatment options for TMJ, ranging from basic to advanced treatment.

  1. Ingesting soft foods, that doesn’t require lot of chewing or grinding. This can give rest to the joints.
  2. Using ice packs, giving moist heat by a damp cloth and exercising can be helpful for muscle related problems.
  3. Medicines like Anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants.
  4. Anti-anxiety drugs to relieve stress and give relaxation to facial muscles.
  5. Splints, that prevents upper and lower jaw from connecting with each other, therefore, a person cannot grind teeth during sleep.
  6. Applying deep heat to the joint with the help of Ultrasound treatment, if joint is sore  and doesn’t move.
  7. Acupuncture can also be very helpful for most of the patients.
  8. At last, surgery may be required if all other treatment options don’t work. Also, it can be a option for a structural problem in TMJ.

A TMJ specialist may prescribe one or a specific combination of treatment, based on severity or type of problem.