Taking Control: A Guide To TMJ Treatment Options
Temporomandibular joint disorder syndrome (TMJ) is a complicated condition affecting more than 10 million people in the United States, according to the National Institute of Health. Selecting the right TMJ treatment can be challenging. Symptoms and causes vary from person to person. The biggest constant seems to be the desire to find TMJ pain relief as quickly as possible.
The good news is that in many cases, the best TMJ treatment is to do nothing at all. The condition often corrects itself over time. This is small comfort if you've had it up to here with suffering from this painful condition. You're probably ready to try everything and anything to get TMJ relief. Unfortunately, finding effective treatment for TMJ is no less complicated that the condition itself. There's often a lot of trial and error in determining which TMJ treatment options will work best for you.
DIY TMJ Treatment Options
Before seeking professional treatment, it's worth trying the following do-it-yourself remedies for TMJ relief.
Watch your mouth. Avoid clenching your teeth. Learn to keep your mouth in its natural, relaxed position (lips closed, teeth apart, tongue gently resting on the roof or your mouth).
Take it easy on your jaws. Overuse of your jaw muscles can bring on TMJ. Once you start to feel symptoms, a few simple changes in your routine could be all you need to bring on TMJ relief. Eating soft foods, taking smaller bites, and avoiding chewing gum as well as hard and sticky foods can keep TMJ symptoms at bay.
Take a naproxen. There's some evidence that of all the over the counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) on the market, naproxen (e.g. Aleve, etc.) provides the greatest TMJ relief. It appears to most effective when combined with TMJ exercises that stretch the jaw.
Apply hot compresses. Applying warm moist heat to the side of your jaw in front of your ear can provide TMJ pain relief. The warm compress reduces pain by increasing blood flow to the affected muscles.
Stretch and massage problem areas. -- Stretching and massaging the muscles of your jaw, neck and shoulders (but not the throat) can help reduce TMJ symptoms. Painful spots should be massaged several times a day with hard, slow short strokes.
Try exercising. If TMJ causes your jaw fall to one side when you open your mouth, you may find relief through this simple exercise: Open and close your mouth straight up and down 10 times in a row. Do this in sets of three. Repeat this exercise three to four times a day.
If you're experiencing sore muscles around your jaw, you may find TMJ relief by slowly opening your mouth as wide as possible. Then slowly close your jaw. Repeat this exercise in three sets of ten, three to four times a day.
Advanced TMJ Treatment Options
It's time to see your dentist if several weeks of DIY remedies and OTC medication fail to bring TMJ relief.
Typical advanced TMJ treatment options include:
Corrective Dental Treatment -- Your dentist may be able to provide TMJ pain relief by balancing the biting surfaces of your teeth or replacing old dental crowns and dental fillings.
Bruxism Night Guard -- If your symptoms are related to grinding teeth while sleeping, you may find TMJ relief by wearing a bruxism night guard. These custom-fit mouthguards reduce symptoms by preventing your teeth from making contact with each other.
Botulism Toxin and Trigger Point Injections -- Injecting botulism toxin directly into the jaw muscles is an emerging treatment for TMJ. Also, some dentists are successfully providing TMJ relief by injecting pain medication into the tender areas or "trigger points" around the affected joint.
Prescription Medications -- Dentist have found that a variety of prescription medications, including antidepressants, muscle relaxants and corticosteroid drugs, are effective in the treatment of TMJ.
Physical Therapy -- Physical therapy can be a successful treatment for TMJ. Your therapist will work with you to develop an exercise plan to loosen your muscles and improve your head, neck and shoulder posture.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy -- Your dentist may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy if your condition doesn't respond to standard dentistry-based TMJ treatment options. Therapy may help you change contributory behaviors and learn relaxation and stress management techniques to bring about TMJ relief.
Electronic TMJ Treatment Options
Your dentist may prescribe one or more of the following options if conventional TMJ treatment doesn't reduce your symptoms:
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) -- This treatment for TMJ uses low-level electrical currents to relax the jaw joint and facial muscles.
Ultrasound Therapy -- Applied directly to the temporomandibular joint, ultrasound TMJ treatment often relieves soreness and improves mobility.
Radio Wave Therapy -- Radio waves provide TMJ pain relief by increasing blood flow to the temporomandibular joint.
Alternative TMJ Treatment Options
Stress has long been recognized as a cause of TMJ. Many of the relaxation techniques associated with new age and Eastern philosophical movements are quite effective at providing TMJ relief.
Deep Breathing Exercises -- The simple act of breathing deeply is a proven way to reduce stress levels. To get maximum benefit from this technique, sit comfortably with your feet on the ground. Breathe in through your nose (breathing should be concentrated in your diaphragm not your chest). Pause for a second and then exhale through your mouth while gently pushing on your abdomen with your hand. This exercise should be repeated for a minute or two.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation -- This TMJ treatment technique focuses on relaxing each of your body's muscle groups. Start by increasing the tension in an arm or leg. Then slowly relax the tension. Now, select another part of your body and repeat tightening and relaxing the muscles. Do this until you've relaxed all of your major muscle groups.
Guided Imagery -- Also called "visualization," this TMJ treatment involves lying quietly with your eyes closed and picturing yourself in a pleasant, relaxing setting. The effectiveness of this relaxation technique may be enhanced by listening to guide imagery audio (e.g. CDs, MP3s, etc.).
Meditation -- TM (transcendental meditation) and similar meditative practices help relax your mind and body. While meditating you sit quietly, breathe deeply and think of nothing. Some people find silently repeating a mantra (a simple sound) increases their level of relaxation. The release of tension you experience is a great way to achieve TMJ pain relief.
Yoga -- People practicing yoga often find the combination of proper breathing, stretching and posture provide TMJ relief.
Surgical TMJ Treatment Options
Surgery is the TMJ treatment of last resort. It is important to have exhausted all other TMJ treatment options first because surgical procedures are irreversible and some have been known to aggravate existing symptoms or cause new ones. Be sure to get a second or even a third opinion from an oral surgeon before committing to surgery.
Surgical treatment for TMJ generally focuses on the repair or removal of the disk between your mandible and temporal bone. If your TMJ is the result of advanced osteoarthritis, a partial or total joint replacement may be performed.
The three major types of surgical TMJ treatment options are:
Arthrocentesis -- This outpatient procedure is used to treat sudden onset, closed lock jaw (restricted jaw opening). The surgery typically involves washing out and lubricating the affected joint with saline solution, removing adhesions, and dislodging a disk that is stuck in front of the "ball" portion of the temporomandibular joint's "ball and socket."
Arthroscopy -- Often an outpatient procedure, this minimally invasive treatment for TMJ, involves inserting a small, thin surgical instrument through a small incision in front of the ear. The instrument combines a light and lens to your doctor is able to examine and repair the TMJ while watching a video screen.
Open-Joint Surgery -- There are a variety of open-joint surgical procedures used for TMJ relief. All are done as inpatient procedures and require general anesthesia. As the name implies, the entire area around the TMJ is opened so your surgeon has unimpeded access to the jaw. Open-joint surgery is used to repair or replace deteriorating jaw joints, remove tumors around the TMJ and treat scarring or chips of bone affecting the joint.
Prevention Is the Best TMJ Pain Relief Treatment
Once your symptoms are under control there are a few steps you can take to help ensure your TMJ relief is long lasting.
Some proven TMJ pain relief tips include:
Reduce extreme actions which cause symptoms (e.g. gritting teeth, yawning, singing, chewing gum, etc.).
Sleep on your back.
Exercise several times a week.
Avoid resting your hand on your chin.
Learn stress management techniques.
Stretch and massage the muscles around your jaw.
Don't hold the phone between your shoulder and ear.
Apply moist heat or cold packs to your face at the first sign of symptoms.
Try to keep your lips closed and your teeth slightly apart as often as possible.
What’s The Right TMJ Treatment Plan for You?
No single approach to TMJ relief is right for everyone. Developing an effective TMJ pain relief plan is often a matter of trial and error. Working with a dentist is the speediest way to determine which TMJ treatment is best for you.
For help finding treatment for TMJ, search now or call 1-866-970-0441.