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TMJ Disorders – Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a hinge that connects the jaw to the temporal bones towards the side of the skull. It allows the jaw to move up and down and from side to side, so that you can talk, chew and yawn. TMJ disorders refer to disorders of the jaw muscles and nerves caused by injury or inflammation to the temporomandibular joint. TMJ syndrome can cause severe pain in the jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement. Leading pain management centers in Brooklyn, NYC offer non-surgical treatment for TMJ disorders that help address severe pain, restore function, and prevent the condition from progressing.

Signs and Symptoms

Jaw pain can occur due to a combination of factors such as genetics, jaw injury, misalignment of the teeth, jaw arthritis and teeth grinding. As such, the exact cause of a TMJ disorder is usually difficult to determine.

TMJ Disorders - Symptoms, Diagnosis and TreatmentCommon symptoms of TMJ disorders include –

  • Pain or tenderness around the jaw
  • Aching pain in and around the ear
  • Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
  • Tooth pain
  • Pain while chewing
  • Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
  • Clicking or popping noises when chewing or moving the mouth
  • General facial pain

Nonsurgical Treatment Modalities for TMJ Disorders

Diagnosis of TMJ syndrome will involve a detailed physical exam and evaluation of previous medical history. As part of the physical exam, physicians will assess range of motion in jaw and press on areas around the jaw to identify sites of pain or discomfort.To confirm diagnosis, patients may be referred to a dentist specializing in jaw disorders. If the physician or dentist detects any problem with the teeth, an imaging test such as a dental X-rays, CT scan or MRI scan may be conducted to check for cartilage damage in the jaw joint and pinpoint problems with the joint’s disk.

Treatment for TMJ disorders often involves several non-surgical procedures. Physical therapy includes ultrasound, ice and heat treatment along with gentle jaw stretching, and relaxing exercises that help improve jaw mobility. Chiropractic treatment can also reduce pain and relieve stress on the jaw muscles.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and muscle relaxants help relieve pain caused by TMJ disorders. Trigger-point injections placed into tender facial muscles called “trigger points” provide great pain relief. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) uses low-level electrical currents to provide pain relief by relaxing your jaw joint and facial muscles. In addition, oral splints or mouth guards (occlusal appliances) lessen the effects of clenching or grinding and correct bite by putting the teeth in a more correct position.

Simple Remedies for TMJ Syndrome

Mild-to-moderate TMH disorder symptoms usually respond well to these simple remedies:

  • Avoid extreme jaw movements
  • Eat soft foods and avoid chewing gum
  • Massage or gentle self-stretching of the jaw and neck muscles (a doctor or physical therapist can recommend appropriate stretches)
  • Applying warm, moist heat or ice to the side of your face may help alleviate pain
  • Relaxation and stress management techniques

The pain and discomfort associated with this orthopedic problem is temporary and can be effectively managed by non-surgical treatments and simple remedies. Surgery will be recommended only as a last resort, when all the conservative measures fail.

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