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The Temporomandibular Joint more commonly referred to as TMJ – is the joint that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of the skull. A condition known as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) occurs when this joint is injured or damaged, which causes problems affecting the chewing muscles and the overall function of the jaw. Some estimates suggest that up to 30% of adults will experience TMD at some point during their lifetime, and although not usually a serious condition, the symptoms associated with TMD can significantly affect a sufferer’s quality of life.
Symptoms of TMD
There are a number of symptoms associated with TMD. These include, but are not limited to:
Muscle pain in and around the jaw
Clicking, grinding or popping noises when you chew or move your mouth
Pain in front of the ear which may spread to the cheek, ear and temple
Persistent earache, tinnitus, a buzzing or blocked sensation inside the ear
Difficulty opening the mouth, a jaw that feels stiff or stuck
Swelling of the face or jaw
Persistent headaches or migraines
Tender jaw muscles
Pain in the neck and/or back
Symptoms of TMD can create further problems such as difficulty eating, swallowing, hearing and sleeping.
Causes of TMD
So exactly what causes TMD? A variety of factors could contribute to the development of the condition, including but not limited to:
Injury to the jaw point
Wear and tear to the jaw bone, usually as a result of osteoarthritis
Persistent clenching of the jaw (often due to stress)
Grinding of your teeth, usually done subconsciously while you are asleep
An uneven bite, which sometimes comes after dental crowns, dentures or new fillings are fitted
Stress, which causes people to clench their jaw or grind their teeth
Specific medical conditions such as fibromyalgia, gout or arthritis
Treating TMD with TMJ Therapy
If you have been diagnosed with TMD then there are things that can be done to help alleviate your symptoms – namely TMJ therapy. TMJ therapy is comprised of a selection of different treatments, often used in combination with one another, to reduce the impact of your condition.
TMJ Therapy Treatments
There are a number of TMJ therapy treatments that work well with one another. These include:
Choosing soft food: soft foods require far less chewing, meaning that your jaws get the opportunity to rest and heal and not become further antagonized or swollen from working too hard. You should avoid anything that requires you to open your mouth very wide, instead cutting food up into very small pieces. You should also avoid foods that are sticky, hard or crunchy. Swap French fries for mashed potato, hard cheese for soft cheese, fish instead of meat etc.
Hot/cold therapy & manipulation: Another popular treatment for TMD involves hot/cold therapy and manipulation. Ice packs, moist heat and gentle manipulation can help to relax tight muscles. Your dentist will be able to recommend some physical therapy exercises to do after hot/cold applications, to help alleviate pain and stiffness caused by TMD.
Splints: Splints are designed to fit over the teeth and prevent them from coming together, making it very difficult for you to clench or grind them. Vero Dental Spa will be able to advise you if a splint is right for you, and if so, when and for how long you should wear one.
Medicine: There are multiple over-the-counter and prescription medicines that may help to reduce the symptoms associated with TMD. These include Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs.
TENS: Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, otherwise known as TENS, is commonly used to relieve tightness and pain in the back during labor, but in fact, TENS can be just as useful for TMD pain. It uses low levels of electrical current to relax the muscles and alleviate pain.
Trigger-point injections: In this type of treatment, your dentist injects pain relief directly into the affected facial muscles. Once the pain relief has begun to work, your dentist will then support you while you perform some simple exercises to help stretch your jaw muscles.
Surgery: Surgery is usually only performed when all other treatment options have been tried and the patient is still suffering from functional difficulties and persistent pain. However, in rare cases if your TMD is due to a degenerative disease, your dentist or doctor may recommend surgery as the only viable option to treat your condition.
There are two main surgeries used as part of TMJ therapy. These are known as arthroscopy and open joint surgery. Both involve an incision being made in front of the ear, but while arthroscopy uses a small thin video lead to examine the TMJ through a tiny incision, open joint surgery involves operating on the joint in direct vision, thus requiring a bigger opening. Both require general anesthetic and some recovery time, but scarring is almost always minimal.
If you have any further questions or concerns regarding TMJ therapy, speak to contact Vero Dental Spa today at 772-778-5550 and we will be happy to advise you.
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