TMJ Disorders

What is TMJ Disorder?

TMJ Disorder, or Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (also known as TMD), is an umbrella term for a number of conditions which arise due to the dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). The TMJ is the joint which connects the lower jaw to the skull. TMJ Syndrome can involve pain or difficulty when attempting to perform jaw-related movements, such as chewing, speaking, or yawning. Other symptoms may include a clicking or grating sound when attempting to open and close the jaw, headache, facial pain, earache, neck pain, dizziness, and jaw locking.

Causes of TMJ Disorder

The exact cause of TMJ disorders is not known, but they can be caused by a variety of factors, such as bruxism (teeth grinding), arthritis, jaw trauma, misalignment of the teeth or jaw, or stress. It is also possible that the symptoms may be due to a combination of several of these factors.

Diagnosis and Treatment

TMJ disorders can be difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms can be similar to those of other conditions or medical problems. To diagnose TMJ disorder, your doctor may ask questions about your medical history, perform an examination of your jaw and neck, and might even order imaging tests such as an x-ray or MRI to look for any abnormalities.

Treatment for TMJ disorder will depend on the individual, but commonly employed treatments include physical therapy, lifestyle changes (such as avoiding hard/chewy foods), medications to reduce pain and inflammation such as NSAIDs, and occasionally even surgery. Additionally, home remedies such as ice packs, warm compresses, jaw exercises, and relaxation techniques may be useful in managing symptoms.

Self-Care Tips for TMJ Disorder

  • Avoid hard/chewy foods if possible. These can be difficult to chew, resulting in strain on the jaw.
  • Avoid lying down for long periods of time. Prolonged periods of lying down can lead to an increase in symptoms.
  • Use relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga, to help reduce tension in the jaw.
  • Avoid clenching your teeth or jaw too tightly. Consciously loosen your jaw when you’re feeling tense.
  • Apply warm compresses or ice packs to the jaw for 10 minutes at a time multiple times a day.
  • Perform jaw exercises such as opening and closing your mouth, chewing, and gently massaging the jaw muscles.