TMJ is a condition that affects the joint and muscle of the jaw and causes painful symptoms, such as a locking jaw and difficulty chewing. With more than 10 million Americans affected, TMJ is a common condition. Below is an explanation of the most common treatment options, what can be done if those options aren't working, and when to make an appointment with your dentist.
What are Common Treatment Options?
As the cause of TMJ in the majority of cases is unknown, and as symptoms usually subside in a short period of time, common treatment options focus on temporary pain relief and easing of the discomfort.
The use of over-the-counter pain medications, ice packs, and avoiding activities that cause further pain and discomfort are the most common treatment methods. While temporarily painful and uncomfortable, these treatment methods have little to no ill side effects and are easily administered. For some individuals, however, they may not be enough.
What if These Options Aren't Working?
For a number of sufferers, pain and discomfort may be too intense or the flare may last longer than usual. While not commonly used, there are a few intensive treatment options available.
If over-the-counter medication isn't easing the pain, muscle relaxants may be prescribed. If the pain is caused by a structural issue of the joint, your dentist may recommend reparative or replacement surgery. This is the most extreme option and not a commonly recommended course of action. Other options that are more effective than ice packs but less invasive than surgery include physical therapy and corticosteroid injections.
When to See a Dentist
As mentioned above, the majority of treatment options can be done at home and symptoms of TMJ will usually subside within a few days. If you're concerned, however, it's never a bad idea to seek your dentist's opinion.
While the cause of TMJ in the majority of patients is unknown, there may be another reason for the pain you're feeling. TMJ can cause pain that radiates from the jaw and towards the ear, but so can other common dental conditions such as infections and abscesses. If you're unsure whether TMJ is really the cause of your pain and discomfort, consult your dentist for a proper diagnosis.
TMJ can be painful and uncomfortable, but for the majority of patients it isn't an issue that warrants invasive treatment. To learn more about TMJ and how you can deal with it better, consult with your dentist.