TMJ therapy is used to alleviate certain type of pain associated with movement of the jawbone. TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint, but many people, including dentists, incorrectly use the term TMJ to describe disorders, rather than the joint itself.
The TMJ is a flexible, hinged joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull near the ears. The TMJ allows the jaw to move sideways and up and down, the movements associated with chewing, laughing, talking and so on.
Symptoms of disorder in the TMJ can include:
- Pain in the TMJ area, in the surrounding facial tissue and even in the neck and shoulders
- Difficulty or discomfort in opening the mouth more than a little
- Sensation of numbness or tiredness in the face
- Facial swelling, particularly near the joint
- Difficulty or discomfort in chewing or yawning
- Pain, grating or popping noises when chewing or yawning
Diagnosis and TMJ therapy
Diagnosing TMJ can be difficult because there are other disorders, includng toothache and arthritis, with similar symptoms. The dentist will examine the patient’s medical history, the joint itself, the bite and the jaw function. X-rays may be taken and the dentist may recommend other tests, such as an MRI scan.
As TMJ disorder is often a temporary condition, non-surgical intervention is normally the first stage in therapy.
Basic treatments include:
- Application of warm or cold packs to the joint area
- Simple jaw exercises the dentist will recommend
- Avoiding hard or chewy foods
- Taking anti-inflammatory or pain relieving drugs
- Wearing dental shields when sleeping
- The fitting of braces to realign the teeth
To correct bite problems, the dentist may also recommend fitting crowns, dentures or bridges to replace missing teeth. If this TMJ therapy does not resolve the problem, surgical procedures under general anesthesia may be required.