TMJ, or Temporomandibular Joint and Muscle disorder is a condition that causes dysfunction and severe pain in the muscles that are involved with movement of the jaw, and the jaw joint itself. It is estimated that over 10 million people in the United States are afflicted with this condition, with it being more common with women than it is with men.
It is thought that the most common reason for this disorder to occur is a tightening and clenching of the jaw muscles while a person sleeps, but that may not be the only reason why this occurs. For many people, the symptoms appear for no apparent reason at all, as they have not had any symptoms before, and it appears suddenly.
There is actually no definite test to determine exactly what is going on because there is no conclusive evidence as to exactly why it occurs. People just wake up and have severe pain in the joint area of the jaw.
For many people, the pain and stiffness is temporary, and over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen work just fine until the pain goes away. If the pain is more severe, a physician or a dentist can prescribe stronger anti-inflammatory or pain medications, anti-depressants, or muscle relaxants to help ease the symptoms and the pain.
In more severe cases, the wearing of a mouth guard, or a stabilization splint has been effective in relieving pain. It comes in the form of a bite guard, which fits over the lower or upper teeth. This stabilizes the teeth and keeps them in place. This seems to lessen the pressure of the bite, assuming that while the person sleeps they have been grinding and biting their teeth.
The mouth guard, or stabilization splint has traditionally been the most popular treatment for the TMJ syndrome apart from medication, and is widely used, but it is not effective for everyone. A stabilization splint is not recommended for permanent use, and if it causes discomfort or pain, it should be discontinued.
There have been recent studies where Botox has been used for the treatment of TMJ, as Botox does affect the jaw muscles and the corresponding nerves. Results are inconclusive as far as the determination if this is a successful remedy.
The general consensus of invasive procedures such as surgery, dental work, bridgework to change the bite, and orthodontics are not generally recommended as they are considered to be irreversible, and these tactics are not normally advised to be considered except in extremely difficult cases.
For most people, the symptoms of TMJ pain will just go away and disappear on their own without any special treatment or invasive procedures. The results from permanent changes of teeth, jaw restructuring and other types of remedies have just not turned out well at all.
If any treatment is recommended, then it should be based on a reasonable prognosis and be reversible.
It can be difficult to find the right care for a TMJ disorder simply because most of the treatments are hit and miss, prescribe and hope types of approaches. There is really no specialty for TMJ disorders, in either dentistry or medicine. Dentists are usually going to see more cases of TMJ, and they may have more solutions.
Pain clinics in hospitals and universities are also good sources of information, particularly when the pain has been present for a longer period of time and there has been little or no relief. In severe cases the pain will get to a level where it interferes with a normal lifestyle and the quality of life has deteriorated to a great extent.
This type of situation may require a team of experts who are expressly familiar with the condition and who can tailor a program that is individualized to the patient.