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Most people do not give a second thought to talking, laughing, yawning, chewing and eating, but those who suffer from Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction often dread these routine, daily movements. Nashville orthondontist Damon Barbieri gives tips on treating this disorder, known as TMD or TMJ Syndrome.
What are the Symptoms?
The temporomandibular joint is the hinge used to connect the lower jaw bone to the skull. These joints are supposed to stay flexible so that when the jaw needs to move positions it can do so without causing pain, irritation or inflammation. Symptoms may vary, such as having pain in the face and around the mouth due to jaw movements needed to chew, yawn or talk, clicking or popping in the jaw bone that may or may not cause pain, limited movement of the jaw causing an inability to open the mouth to certain extents and the jaw may even lock in place. Because of the location of these joints and muscles associated with the jaw, headaches and earaches may also be a common concern.
There are various treatment plans available, ranging from more conservative, do-it-yourself methods to more aggressive, permanent procedures done by a medical professional. It is always recommended that you seek your doctor’s advice before starting any treatment plan. One practice that you can do on your own is avoid using extreme movements that may cause your jaw to act up, such as yawning, chewing forcefully or even screaming and yelling. Practicing good posture is also important – for example, do not use your shoulder and your jaw as a place to hold your phone during conversation because this can cause strain on the facial joints and muscles.
Eat softer foods, like mashed potatoes, yogurt, soup and cottage cheese, to help minimize having to chew a lot or vigorously. Use and learn gentle massaging strokes and stretching techniques that can help loosen up taut joints and muscles in the facial area. You can also use heating or cooling pads on the face to help relieve pain and tenderness. It’s very important to avoid clenching and grinding your teeth – if you do this when stressed, use and learn some stress relieving methods such as counseling or even regular exercise. Bite guards and oral splints have proven helpful and may give immediate aid but are not recommended for long term use.
As for medications, NSAIDs can help bring relief of pain, aches and swelling. The use of NSAIDs should be short-term and only used while finding a more effective, permanent treatment. Muscle relaxants and anti-depressants have been effective in treating TMJ Syndrome since they reduce stress levels, which can have an effect on relaxing strained facial and jaw muscles.
When basic techniques and medication offer no relief, your doctor may offer you more aggressive options, if that is what you are willing to consider. Although controversial, your dentist or orthodontist may have treatment options. These options usually consist of some type of deep heat treatment, injections or even electrical stimulation therapies to help relieve the effects of TMJ Syndrome. Surgery is usually considered a last resort in cases of this disorder. Surgery can consist of either having joints washed out, inflamed tissue being removed and even an extremely invasive open joint surgery. They can give you the relief needed, but can also cause nerve damage and scarring.
It’s always better to start with the simplest options and work your way to the more complex ones if you are not getting the relief you need.
Barbieri Orthodontics helps treat TMD/TMJ Syndrome, as well as other orthodontic issues.