Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders refer to a variety of ailments which affect the jaw area, especially the joints connecting the mandible with the base of the skull. It is typically characterised by pain and/or stiffness in the jaw as well as by popping, clicking or grating sounds when moving the mouth. Other reported symptoms include chronic headache, toothache, neck ache, dizziness and ringing in the ears. The pain and other signs of the disease are often most noticeable to sufferers when they open their mouths to eat, talk or yawn.
There are many possible causes of TMJ disorders, including osteoarthritis which can result in the wear and tear of the jaw joints’ inside parts, gout or rheumatoid arthritis which can lead to inflammation of the jaw joints and the surrounding tissues, trauma or physical injury to the jaw, face or mouth areas, even bad sleeping habits which can inordinately stress the jaw and face muscles. Treatment for TMJ disorders necessarily depends on their underlying cause or causes and can range from specialised surgery to simple lifestyle changes.
In very severe cases, surgery may be the only option. Surgical procedures for the treatment of TMJ disorders include arthrocentesis, arthroscopy as well as open joint surgery. Sometimes, total prosthetic replacement of the temporomandibular joint may even have to be resorted to. Here the diseased joints and other parts of the jaw are surgically replaced with artificial substitutes made from suitable material. In other cases, as when the TMJ disorders resulted from arthritis or some similarly debilitating disease, the sufferer may be put on a steroid therapy. This form of treatment entails injecting steroid to reduce swelling and pain in the diseased joint or surrounding tissues.
Fortunately, in the vast majority of TMJ cases, merely taking some over-the-counter analgesics and anti-inflammatory medication, like paracetamol and ibuprofen, often brings relief. Other self-help measures that can be tried by sufferers, especially when their TMJ discomfort is just mild and not chronic, include applying cold or hot compress on the affected area, eating easier to chew food, doing jaw exercises, refraining from making extreme jaw motions, massaging the jaw muscles from time to time and resisting the habit of resting the chin on a hand while watching TV, working, thinking or daydreaming. They can also practice relaxation techniques like yoga, visualisation and meditation to manage the level of stress that have been localised at and around their jaw area. Those who habitually unconsciously grind their teeth while sleeping can have their dentist fit them with night guards to keep them from damaging their teeth and straining their jaw muscles.
Such mouth guards are carefully designed for you. It is very customised using your bite records. The mouth guards can be hard, or soft acrylic and are used to protect the tooth surface from damage due to grinding and clenching teeth at night time and help jaw muscle relaxation.
If you suffer from TMJ disorders and other jaw pains, it would be a good idea to go first to your dentist for an x-ray and a complete dental checkup. It may be that the cause is an improper bite, an abscessed tooth or some other oral condition that can be addressed with a dental solution. If the cause is not dental-related, you will be referred to an appropriate health care specialist. Otherwise, your dentist would put you on a dental treatment plan that would address your specific condition. For instance, you may be required to have a night mouth guard or splint made by our in house prosthodontist Dentist, who has a deep understanding of the way teeth bite together.