What Is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, And How Can I Treat It?

Temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMJ disorder, is the name given to any issues or ailments related to the temporomandibular joint. The temporomandibular joint plays an essential role in jaw functionality, as the joint’s main job is to connect your jawbone to your skull. Over time, individuals may develop temporomandibular joint disorder without even knowing it, and that is why it is important to be able to identify the signs and symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder, as well as understanding the steps needed to treat TMJ disorder.

What is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?

As stated above, the temporomandibular joint is a hinge that connects the jaw to the skull, specifically connecting to the skull in the area in front of the ears. The joint lets you move your jaw to perform a variety of essential tasks, including talk and chew food. Temporomandibular joint disorder is the name given to any issue a patient may have with either their jaw or the muscles in the face that control the actions of the jaw.

What are the Symptoms of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?

There are a variety of different symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder, and oftentimes these symptoms can cause severe pain and discomfort. Below are a few of the most prominent temporomandibular joint disorder symptoms.

Face, Jaw, and Upper Body Pain

Oftentimes the most common symptom is pain and discomfort in the area surrounding the temporomandibular joint, making the area tender to the touch. TMJ disorder causes pain in the face and jaw, but can also have a ripple effect throughout the upper body that can cause pain in the neck and shoulders as well.

Discomfort When Chewing, Speaking, or Opening Mouth Wide

The tenderness in the TMJ means that there will be some discomfort when you activate the joint, That means those afflicted will find themselves in discomfort when chewing, speaking, or any other activity that requires opening the mouth wide. Usually, the pain is felt in or around the ear, as that is where the temporomandibular joint connects to the skull.

Jaw Will Lock While Open or Closed

Another prominent symptom is patients getting “lock jaw”. This occurs when the jaw gets locked in a certain position, and the patient is unable to move out of the position. As a result of temporomandibular joint disorder, the jaw can get stuck with either the mouth wide open, or closed.

The Jaw Clicks or Pops

Individuals with temporomandibular joint disorder will often hear a click or pop in the jaw joint whenever they open or close their mouth. While this may not necessarily be painful, it can be irritating for both the individual afflicted and those around them.

A Fatigued Face

The stress on the jaw and skull caused by temporomandibular joint disorder can be exhausting, and patients with TMJ disorder often have facial fatigue, resulting in a tired feeling in the face.

Difficulty Chewing

Oftentimes, those with temporomandibular joint disorder can experience difficulty chewing, almost feeling as if their lower teeth do not fit together properly with their upper teeth. This can make it uncomfortable to chew, leading to issues eating food.

Other Various Symptoms

Along with the aforementioned symptoms, some other common symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder include facial swelling, toothaches, headaches, earaches, issues hearing, a constant ringing in the ears, dizziness, and other assorted aches and pains.

What Causes Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?

At this juncture, experts are unsure what exactly causes temporomandibular joint disorder, but they know a couple of different factors that contribute to the formation of TMJ disorder. Many believe that temporomandibular joint disorder is caused by issues within the set of muscles within the jaw, or in parts of the joint itself. These issues can be caused by an injury to the jaw or areas surrounding the jaw, including a strong blow to the face or severe whiplash. There is also believed to be a genetic component as well, as individuals with temporomandibular joint disorder in their family history are more likely to develop the disorder themselves.

Some other possible causes of temporomandibular joint disorder include teeth grinding or clenching, arthritis in the temporomandibular joint, displacement of the soft cushion in the joint, and constant stress that can lead to perpetually tight facial muscles. While the exact cause is unclear, it is likely some combination of these factors that lead to the development of temporomandibular joint disorder.

How to Treat Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?

Temporomandibular joint disorder does not always require treatment. Individuals may hear clicking in their jaw, but if there is no pain or discomfort, there is no urgency or reason to seek treatment. For those who are constantly in pain and find that temporomandibular joint disorder is interfering with their day-to-day life, there are a few different treatment methods with varying degrees of effectiveness.

Medication to Minimize Pain and Discomfort

As the first step in treatment, a doctor may prescribe pain relievers to help manage the symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder. While pain relievers will not help resolve TMJ disorder, it will help make everyday life easier and less painful. A limitation of this treatment method is that pain relievers can only be prescribed for a limited duration, as using them for an extended amount of time may lead to addiction or resistance to the medication.

Muscle Relaxants

Muscle relaxants are another short-term fix to help patients live comfortably. The medication can be used for a few days or weeks at a time to help relieve the pain caused by temporomandibular joint disorder, as well as lesson muscle spasms. However, the treatment does not have any long-term viability, as patients cannot be on muscle relaxants for longer than a few weeks.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be useful for more minor occurrences of temporomandibular joint disorder, as it can help strengthen the jaw muscles and make the muscles more flexible. Along with jaw exercises, physical therapy may utilize ice, moist heat, and ultrasound therapy.

Botox® Injections

Botox injections are an incredibly effective temporomandibular joint disorder treatment, proving to be a long-lasting way to relieve pain and other symptoms. Targeted Botox injections weaken the muscles surrounding the jaw, leading to a marked reduction in pain and discomfort. Best of all, Botox can alleviate TMJ pain for up to six months, and as soon as pain returns the patient can simply come in for another round of treatment. This makes Botox the best nonsurgical temporomandibular joint disorder treatment on the market.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder Surgery

If temporomandibular joint disorder symptoms go beyond pain and discomfort and begin to interfere with the patient’s ability to speak and eat, then surgery is the next option. There are a variety of different surgical methods to treat TMJ, depending on the extent of the disorder in the individual. After a consultation, a TMJ expert will suggest the best surgical approach for each patient’s needs.

Botox Temporomandibular Joint Disorder Treatment with Dr. Cabin

If you are experiencing the painful symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder, Dr. Jonathan Cabin can help. Dr. Cabin is a Arlington, VA facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon with expertise in treating temporomandibular joint disorder with Botox, which provides a quick and easy treatment that can provide long-lasting relief from TMJ pain. To learn more about treating temporomandibular joint disorder with Botox injections or to request a consultation, contact Dr. Cabin today by calling 703-718-4411.