Have you ever had your jaw lock up on you? Does your face often hurt when you wake up? Do you hear clicking when you are eating, do you have eye or ear problems? All of these symptoms are possible signs of a temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ. If you fail to seek  TMJ treatment, then it can lead to complications and difficulties later in life.

woman holding her jaw in pain

Common Symptoms of TMJ

While clicking and facial pain are both common symptoms of TMJ, several other potential issues may develop as well, including dizziness, hearing loss, ear congestion, buzzing or ringing in the ears, sensitivity to sounds, headaches, ear pain, difficulty chewing, as well as many other conditions such as eye pain, blurred vision, pain in or around the eyes & excessive tears. Though men can also have this condition, it is more often found in girls and women. Approximately 80% females and 20% males worldwide.

Diagnosis of TMJ

Before a treatment plan can be created, your dentist will need to identify whether TMJ is the underlying cause of your pain and discomfort. They will likely examine your range of motion by having you open and close your mouth, watching the movement of your jaw and neck. Also, they will listen to the clicking and popping noises as well as press on different areas to identify trigger points or nerves that are entrapped by tight muscles. However, to get a clear image of the causes of your discomfort, the dentist will probably want to perform a Radiograph X-Ray, which is an imaging machine used to provide a view of the temporomandibular joint and it’s relation to the skull. Once they have all of this information, the dentist can diagnose your condition and offer a personal treatment plan.

Consequences of Non-Treatment

Seeking treatment for TMJ pain is necessary as avoidance may lead to further deterioration and the worsening of symptoms over time. The disorder is unpleasant and can encroach on the quality of life, affecting your mood, eating habits and sleep as well as nutritional health. Also, while there are several typical health concerns of TMJ—joint damage and inflammation, wearing down of teeth, increasing muscle contractions, and pain or TM Joint damage—you may develop an airway sleep disorder.  As TMJ muscles tighten, it pushes back your lower jaw, causing a restricted airway when you sleep. Airway sleep disorders lead to a lack of oxygen while you sleep which harms all the bodies cells that require oxygen as well as lack of exhaling acidic air that remains in and damages cells, which in turn may lead to chronic headaches, neck pain and brain fog, particularly in the morning. While all of this may sound frightening, both conditions are treatable.

Common TMJ Treatments

Struggling with continued TMJ pain is unnecessary. There are multiple individualized treatments and therapies that can help return you to a happy, healthy and restful life.
Physical therapy and other medical treatments
Physical therapy is one of the main treatments for TMJ. Therapy will include exercise, massage, TENS, laser electrical stimulation, trigger point & entrapped nerve injections and functional manual therapy. Posture correction, hot and cold therapy may also be used.

As TMJ can be painful and cause a lack of sleep, your dentist may prescribe medication. Most often, you will be prescribed muscle relaxants, NSAIDS or neuropathic medicines.

Chiropractic treatment
TMJ can often affect posture or partially be caused by it, which may lead to the need for chiropractic therapy for correction. Some treatments may include applied kinesiology, cranial therapy and even spinal correction.

Oral appliances
Oral appliances are used to realign the jaw, reduce clicking and to relieve pressure on the nerves and the TM joint. There are other appliances that may be used as well to reduce facial pain and limit the grinding of teeth.

Sleep appliances
As stated, TMJ is one of the many reasons that lead to airway sleep disorders due to the setting back of the lower jaw. Each appliance is individually prescribed based on the personal anatomy and needs of a patient.  Sleep appliances help to correct this restrictive behavior, allowing for more oxygen intake during the night and proper exhalation of toxic air.

Trigger point injections
Trigger point injections, often a local anesthetic, help to reset the nerve endings, relaxing muscles and reducing pain. While these injections are not permanent solutions, they do reduce pain as they allow blood flow to the very tight areas to assist healing.

Are you in need of a TMJ doctor? If you think you are, then contact the Michigan Head & Neck Institute at (586) 573-0438 and schedule an appointment.