TMJ is an acronym for temporomandibular joint.
The TMJ may develop a disorder due to a variety of reasons such as trauma or diseases like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
It affects approximately 20- 30% of the world’s population.
The symptoms associated with the temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD for short) and or dysfunction may last anywhere between a few weeks to years.
Consequently, depending on the extent of your symptoms, both home and medical remedies might be applicable to varying extents.
We’ll start with some of the most common home remedies.
Home remedies for TMD are relatively simple to administer and require significantly less financial backing to implement.
Also most of the treatments listed below will reduce the intensity of the pain and the level of swelling.
Carefully go through them to see which ones are the most effective.
1. Ice packs and moist heat for TMJ pain
The two approaches are ironical but very efficient.
Use ice packs and place them on the temple areas of the face, leave them on for at least 10 minutes.
Do this a few times a day.
After you have removed the ice packs, take a warm moist towel and gently dab on the painful region of your jaw area.
2. Eat soft food to reduce jaw strain
The aim here is to reduce strain on your jaw.
Whenever you eat, cut the food into tiny pieces and preferably go for soft foods like cheese, cooked veggies, fruits, scrambled eggs, fish, grains, and beans.
Stay clear of hard foods such as carrots and very chewy foods like taffy and caramel.
3. Tame jaw movements will help your TMJ
Do not overextend your jaw muscles.
Activities like singing, yelling, wide yawning or chewing for extended periods (e.g. chewing gum) should be avoided.
Try to avoid opening your mouth too wide.
4. Stop clenching and grinding your teeth
This applies to people who, during stressful situations, find themselves grinding and clenching their teeth.
Use your tongue or soft material to reduce the intensity of the pressure when your jaws squeeze tightly.
Or just avoid stress altogether.
5. Try not to rest your chin on your hand
Doing so exerts pressure on the jaw.
Avoid holding the phone between the shoulder and the ear since doing so pulls the jaw muscles.
6. Practice good posture to avoid TMJ worsening
Remember to maintain a good posture always.
Do not slouch or bend for prolonged periods this tends to push the lower jaw forward.
This advice is especially important to desk workers who tend to slump on their office desks.
7. Relax your muscles to stop TMJ tension
This is a form of treatment that involves treating the area using simple muscle relaxation methods.
Stretching the jaw slowly up and down will improve flexibility and help you relax.
The exercises can be done in front of the mirror to gauge progress.
There are also medical treatments available for TMD that include the following.
8. Get treated for sleep apnea
Grinding your teeth at night may be an indication that your airway isn’t clear.
You might find it hard to breathe, and getting treated can clear your airway and possibly reduce TMD.
9. Get a custom bite guards
This will help reduce the stress caused on the TMJ and protect your teeth.
However, you should make sure sleep apnea is already ruled out since bite guards may increase air obstruction.
10. OTC medication for immediate relief of TMJ pain
These are mostly used for pain relief, reducing swelling of the jaw and face, and reducing tenderness as well as inflammation.
Examples of OTC drugs include NSAIDs like ibuprofen.
Just remember that these drugs are a temporary pain reliever only.
11. Prescription medication
Your dentist or doctor may prescribe certain medications for your TMD.
These consist of muscle relaxants, anti-anxiety drugs, and antidepressants which may reduce stress, grinding and clenching.
12. Splints or night guards
Splints can be worn all the time while night guards are worn only at night.
Both of them separate the teeth preventing grinding and also correct the shape of the teeth so that the upper and lower jaw fit better remedying the effects of TMD.
There are some great, inexpensive night guard options available here.
13. Trigger point injections for TMJ disorder
The tender trigger points on the face are injected with anesthetic to relieve the pain.
This is only a temporary form of relief.
14. TMJ ultrasound therapy
This is where deep heat is applied to specific areas of the face to relax the muscles and increase mobility.
15. Low-level laser treatments
Low-level laser treatments can increase the neck and jaw movements.
This may allow patients suffering from TMD to open their mouths wider and to move the neck more freely.
16. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
This is a treatment that uses low-level electricity to relax both the jaw and facial muscles.
The procedure is flexible, either done at home or the dentist at the behest of the patient.
17. Radio waves therapy
Radio wave treatment increases blood flow and eases the pain in the affected areas.
18. Surgery options
Surgery is a permanent solution the treatments are irreversible, so before agreeing to a surgical answer, it’s advisable to get a second competent opinion.
There are three primary surgical solutions which include:
If the patient has no prior history of TMD and their jaws are locked, then they are a likely candidate for this procedure.
The procedure is simple enough - a general anesthesia is given.
The dentist injects the patient with needles into the joints and cleans it using a particular tool.
The procedure is used to get rid of all the damaged tissue and also dislodge the jaw bone correctly.
This is a surgery done with an arthroscope.
An arthroscope is a tool that has a lens and light.
The device is hooked up to a video screen. The dentist makes a small cut right next to the ear and uses the tool to examine the area.
The dentist will be able to realign the disc or joint and remove any inflamed tissue.
The benefits of the surgery include:
- Being minimally invasive - The scar left behind is relatively small -The recovery time is relatively fast
3. Open-joint surgery
This form of surgery is applicable in situations such as:
1. Jaw joints whose bony structures are worn out 2. Tumors in the joint or around the joint 3. Bone scarred, or the contains small bone chips
For the surgery, you will need general anesthesia the whole area will be opened up and viewed.
This operation has the risk of scarring and nerve injury.
Also, this treatment takes longer to heal.
Depending on the level of pain, the treatments differ.
When someone suffers from acute temporomandibular joint disorder, simple treatments and home remedies may be used. On a personal note, try to be relaxed and avoid stressful situations which may increase pain and inflammation of the jaw.
Solutions such as using ice packs and applying heat are good alternatives because they act to relieve pain steadily, without costing much.
Other remedies like night guard’s splints and prescription medication are better suited for TMD problems that are above acute.
A notable point is that pain medication is not a permanent solution.
Excessive use of painkillers will have severe implications on your body.
For surgical solutions, the situations have to be chronic, and all the other treatments have to be exhausted first.
The surgical procedures come attached with risk such as nerve injury, and irreversible TMJ damage may happen.
Therefore, all patients are advised to take caution before agreeing to surgery and if possible should look for a second and or a third opinion.
There are support groups that help people suffering from TMJD with resources and information.