The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the jawbone and the skull: It acts as a hinge whenever an individual opens and closes his or her mouth. Should this joint become damaged or sustain a traumatic injury, the temporomandibular joint syndrome can develop.
What Causes Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome?
The temporomandibular joint syndrome can occur when this joint becomes damaged or sustains an injury.
Issues that can lead to the development of TMJ:
- Poor posture.
- Bruxism (teeth grinding while asleep).
- Jaw trauma.
- Jaw clenching (typically with stress).
- Gum chewing.
The Symptoms of TMJ include:
- Jaw locking or clicking.
- Jaw popping.
- Difficulty chewing.
- Jaw pain.
- Head pain/headache.
- Ear pain.
Fortunately, there are numerous at-home treatments for managing TMJ.
To soothe the jaw and reduce the symptoms of TMJ, individuals can:
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers (e.g., ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.).
- Apply an ice pack to the jaw.
- Avoid eating crunchy foods (e.g., potato chips, pretzels, raw carrots, etc.), gum, hard candy as well as foods that require the individual to fully open his or her mouth (e.g., corn-on-the-cob, tall sandwiches, etc.).
- Manage stress and use relaxation techniques (e.g., meditate).
- Essential oils can provide temporary pain relief (e.g., lavender, frankincense and peppermint).
- Use a dental splint. A dental splint (aka a bite guard and a night guard) is a custom-designed dental appliance used to prevent bruxism and keep the teeth in proper alignment.
- Loosen their locked jaw by massaging the muscles and then, once loosened, gently stretching the jaw muscles. Some patients need physical therapy; however, Dr. S. Marc DiBenedetto frequently teaches his TMJ patients how to perform the exercises and stretches to relieve the symptoms they are experiencing. TMJ therapy consists of exercises that are designed to:
- Increase jaw flexibility.
- Strengthen the jaw muscles.
- Allow the mouth to move more freely.
Arthroscopy and Joint Replacement Surgery
Although rare, there are occasions when TMJ surgery (i.e., arthroscopy) is necessary to relieve the symptoms of TMJ. During this minimally invasive procedure, the surgeon corrects the alignment between the temporomandibular joint and the skull. Arthroscopy recovery is quick, usually lasting about a week.
Joint replacement is another option and is only recommended for more severe cases of TMJ. It takes longer to recover from this procedure: Recovery time ranges from four to six weeks. In addition, individuals who have a joint replacement typically remain in the hospital for several days.
What Happens if TMJ is Left Treated?
Left untreated, TMJ can put pressure and stress on other surrounding muscles causing TMJ sufferers to have trouble eating and drinking.
If you have already been diagnosed with, or think you may have, TMJ, contact Dr. S. Marc DiBenedetto’s office at (937) 429-1761 to schedule an appointment today.
Dr. S. Marc DiBenedetto’s Family Dentistry office is at 3398 Dayton-Xenia Road in Beavercreek, Ohio.