Houston TMJ Pain
Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ) has become an increasingly common complaint in general, otherwise healthy, populations. Symptoms of TMJ dysfunction can appear with no obvious underlying cause, or they can occur because of clear trauma such as a car accident or injury. These symptoms may include:
- Pain in the face, ears & jaw
- Ears that feel muffled or clogged
- Pain when chewing/moving jaw
- Dental pain/worn or chipped teeth
- Neck, back, shoulder, and/or chest pain
- Jaw clicking (popping/snapping) when chewing or yawning
- Jaw locking / change in bite
- Jaw pain after dental implants or bone grafts
The number, type and severity of symptoms ranges from person to person and can change over time.
The temporomandibular joint connects the lower jaw, called mandible, to the temporal bone at each side of the head. Since these joints are flexible they allow motion in all three planes of motion, when working properly the jaw can move smoothly up and down, side to side and forward to backward. This free motion allows us to talk, chew and yawn without pain. Muscles of the jaw and face attach to and surround the jaw joint (TMJ) and control its position and movement. If there are conditions in this musculature that affects the balance between the muscles, the symptoms of TMJ dysfunction will result. Other factors that may cause TMJ dysfunction include:
- Severe injury to the jaw or TMJ
- Arthritis in the TMJ,
- Malocclusion (offset of the bite)
- Orthodontic treatments ( braces)
- Increased stress especially the kind that leads to clenching/grinding one’s teeth at night
Diagnosis is best made by a practitioner familiar with the condition and has had training in this area. Dentists often are the first to hear of the symptom from their patients and usually initiate care. If trauma was the cause of TMJ Dysfunction, x-rays of the TMJ mandible of facial bones may be required. A history of the previously mentioned symptoms and then a hands-on physical exam is usually enough to make the correct diagnosis.
Treatment for Houston TMJ Pain
As most TMJ problems are involved with the musculature and soft-tissue structures around the joint, rather than the TMJ joint, conservative strategies focusing on these structures are best.
Self-care practices such as choosing soft foods, no gum-chewing, avoiding extreme jaw movements (such as wide yawning, loud singing) and applying local heat or cool packs can be quite helpful in diminishing TMJ symptoms. Also learning special relaxation techniques and reducing stress may help those with TMJ pain.
If initial conservative care strategies are not effective, the use of a bite splint can be used. This may be helpful as it reduces night-time clenching and grinding allowing the jaw musculature to relax and heal. Medications has been used to treat the symptoms of TMJ however no studies have been shown that they cure TMJ. Narcotics should be avoided as they do not fix the problem and can lead to long term addiction. Magnesium may be helpful for treating TMJ muscle spasm pain. Physical Therapy can also be used to treat TMJ pain and jaw dysfunction. Other advanced treatment options to treat the jaw musculature include IMS, Medical Acupuncture, Prolotherapy and Neuro-Prolotherapy. These treatments can be quite effective for treating chronic severe TMJ pain, disfunction and discomfort.