Temporomandibular joint disorder – or TMD – is an unpleasant condition that involves a lot of pain in the joint that controls your jaw. It hurts to chew, or move your jaw at all, and the pain can even go into the rest of your facial muscles. You can also have problems opening and closing your mouth if the joint locks up.
TMD isn’t something anyone wants, and it’s not always clear what causes it. But there are ways to cope with the pain of TMJ (Temporomandibular joint), and also treat it.
Dealing with TMJ Pain
There are a few ways people have managed TMJ pain and relieved it as much as possible. These treatment methods don’t get rid of the condition itself, but they can make the pain a lot more bearable.
Acupuncture – Acupuncture is a proven way to relieve pain in general, and it can work wonders on your joint and facial muscles. You can even do it yourself, although we recommend going to someone who specializes in the practice. What’s interesting is that some of the best pressure points to manipulate to relieve pain are actually not near your jaw at all!
Massage – You can give your sore facial muscles a nice massage to help with the pain. You’re aiming for the masseter, which is the large muscle that is responsible for opening and closing your jaw (it’s also the strongest muscle in the human body). You can find it at the corners of your mouth. Giving it a quick massage can provide short-term pain relief.
Relax your mouth – Give your jaw a break by relaxing it. It should lower slightly so that your teeth don’t touch and your tongue doesn’t touch the roof of your mouth. Try to keep it relaxed as much as possible, and avoid chewing gum – it can make the problem worse.
What if TMJ pain becomes too much to bear, or you are just sick and tired of the discomfort? What can you do to treat the condition itself?
TMJ Pain Treatment Options
There are a few different ways to treat TMJ pain, including:
- Physical therapy
- Oral orthoses
- Corticosteroid injections
Medication can include over-the-counter pain relievers, like anti-inflammatories (think ibuprofen), muscle relaxants, and tricyclic antidepressants, which have been shown to relieve pain.
Physical therapy and oral orthoses represent two physical ways to deal with the condition. An oral orthosis, like an oral splint or mouth guard, can provide pain relief. Physical therapy can help relax and develop jaw muscles and give them a good stretch.
Corticosteroid injections work by reducing inflammation that causes most of the problems with TMD.
For surgery, there are few options:
- Arthrocentesis: This is a way to irrigate the joint with fluid that can get rid of debris and other things in your joint caused by inflammation.
- Arthroscopy: More invasive than arthrocentesis, but still not nearly as invasive as open surgery, a TMJ arthroscopy is accomplished by small instruments via a thin tube inserted into the joint space.
- Open-joint surgery: The most invasive method, open-joint surgery is for structural problems with your joint that can’t be resolved through other methods. This procedure will attempt to repair the joint; if it can’t be repaired, it can be replaced.
If you are suffering from TMJ pain, know that there are ways to deal with it. You’re not alone; your dentist can walk you through your options in a caring, compassionate way. Schedule an appointment with your dentist to learn more about TMD and how to cope with this painful condition.