Anyone experiencing temporomandibular joint (TMJ) discomfort knows how unpleasant, frustrating, and often painful it is. Dental care treatments for TMJ are essential in order to preserve the function of the joint that enables you to open your mouth, chew food, yawn, and even swallow. A variety of causes can lead to TMJ disorders, but treatment options are available to provide relief and restoration of function.
Dental care for TMJ
Dental care for TMJ is important in order to prevent issues from worsening. It is recommended that a dental professional take a look and offer treatment options to help aid in the correct healing process and restoration of jaw function.
Most joint disorders are primarily caused by irritation, inflammation, or repetitive use. The same applies to the temporomandibular joint, or the hinge-like joint that connects the very tip of the lower jaw or mandible to the skull with the aid of muscles and ligaments.
Ice packs – As with other joint injuries, a modicum of relief may be found by application of warm or cold packs, 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off. This is especially beneficial when slight swelling is noted. Rest the joint as much as possible and consume soft foods.
Stretching – Some experiencing TMJ can find it difficult to open the mouth more than an inch, and very careful and slow stretching exercises may provide some relief, but don’t force it. If necessary, apply gentle pressure to your lower jaw while yawning to reduce discomfort, and maintain a small distance between your upper and lower teeth that might also help give your jaw a rest.
OTC relief – Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin (all nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are NSAIDs) may also provide relief.
If homecare does not resolve the issue, schedule a visit with your dentist as soon as possible. TMJ may be a tiny joint in the body but it can wreak havoc on diet, communication, and even mental and emotional wellness.
Professional dental care for TMJ
When home remedies fail to provide adequate relief, scheduling a visit with a dental professional is your best option. Diagnostic tools including physical examination, panoramic x-rays, or ultrasonography can help determine whether TMJ is caused by a congenital or degenerative joint disorder, displacement of the disk of the joint, or a muscle disorder that affects mastication or chewing. In severe cases, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) maybe suggested.
Imaging diagnostics may depend on perceived causes such as arthritis or degeneration, fracture dislocation, or inflammatory conditions caused by a number of disease processes such as osteoarthritis.
Those experiencing TMJ may find it comforting to know that only a small number of patients will require medical treatment. In many cases, the combination of conservative home-based and professional dental care for TMJ can restore function and resolve pain and stiffness through the use of anti-inflammatory medicines, and OTC pain relievers. For some, muscle relaxants, prescription pain relief, and anti-anxiety meds may also prove effective.
Dr. Scott Prawat DDS is an excellent general and cosmetic dentist in Los Gatos. He can definitely help with all of your dental needs including TMJ.