Have you ever woken up from grinding your teeth? Grinding your teeth can be very painful and even damage your teeth and gums. Clenching your teeth so hard makes your jaw hurt too.  You may wake up with dull headaches every morning if you have TMJ. 

TMJ is a medical term to describe people whose Temporomandibular joint is not aligned correctly, causing stress to other joints and muscles. The TMJ is like a sliding hinge that connects to the jawbone. TMJ causes pain in front of the ear and radiates to other places in the face unless treated.

You may be wondering what symptoms people have with TMJ? How is it treated? How successful is the treatment? If you want to learn the answers to these questions, you will want to keep reading below. 

Life Before Treatment of TMJ

People with TMJ often live with a variety of symptoms that make life uncomfortable and painful daily. Some of them include:

  • Jaw pain
  • Earaches
  • Jaw clicking 
  • Jaw popping
  • Popping sounds in their ears
  • Muscle spasms in the jaw
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Locking of the jaw joint
  • Pain in the temple area
  • Toothaches
  • Having pain at the base of the tongue
  • Blurred vision
  • Sore, stiff jaw muscles
  • Swelling on the sides of the face
  • Teeth grinding or Bruxism
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Shoulder pain 
  • Dizziness

Many things may cause TMJ but some of the most common include:

  • Injuries to the teeth or jaw, 
  • Misalignment of teeth. 
  • Grinding 
  • Clenching one’s teeth
  • Pain when chewing
  • Bad posture
  • Stress
  • Arthritis
  • Chewing gum

There is no specific test to help diagnose TMJ, so a doctor often sends the patient to the Downey Dentist or an otolaryngologist or ENT specialist to help confirm the diagnosis.

Who is Most Susceptible to TMJ?

People with forms of inflammatory arthritis risk developing TMJ. Primarily women 18-44 years of age and patients with chronic inflammatory arthritis tend to experience TMJ. People with poor posture in their neck and upper back muscles often start to have neck strain and issues with their jaw muscles. Stress often causes people to tense up and clench their teeth which can cause or worsen TMJ. 

It is believed that some people may be genetically prone to pain sensitivity and increased stress responses. Typically, these conditions make them more likely to experience TMJ. In addition, people who have trauma to their jaw may also have an increased risk of developing TMJ. 

Treatments for TMJ

There are several TMJ treatments  that have had success in reducing or eliminating the symptoms associated with TMJ. Here are some of the most common treatments.

Home Remedies that Treat TMJ

For hundreds of years, people have used home remedies to help reduce or eliminate symptoms from all kinds of health problems. TMJ is no different. Here is a list of the most commonly used ones for TMJ.

  • Ice packs are placed on the jaw to help ease the pain.
  • Many over-the-counter drugs such as Tylenol and Advil often help with the pain symptoms.
  • Only eating soft foods to avoid excessive chewing may reduce pain.
  • Try some meditation. Meditation is known to help you relax and manage stress and pain. Often when meditating, people start to relax when focusing on their breathing. 
  • Essential oils like lavender or chamomile may help with temporary relief from pain.
  • Try to massage the jaw and neck muscles gently.
  • Stretching exercises for the jaw may help relieve discomfort. 

All of these home remedies have been found to reduce or eliminate the symptoms brought on from TMJ. 

Dental Splints to Stop TMJ Symptoms 

One of the symptoms of TMJ is grinding and clenching one’s teeth which are referred to as Bruxism. A dental splint or guard is commonly prescribed to help with Bruxism and TMJ. The device is placed in the mouth to prevent the patient from grinding their teeth while they sleep. The appliance keeps the teeth in alignment, which helps relieve TMJ. 

Dental splints are prescribed to keep the teeth from wearing down because all the clenching and grinding starts to damage the teeth’ enamel and gradually ruin your teeth. 

Botox Advances In TMJ

Sometimes Botox is used by a medical professional to help patients suffering from TMJ by enabling them to relax the muscles in their jaw. The FDA has not made this an approved treatment yet. 

Although women often use Botox to reduce unwanted lines and wrinkles, it isn’t about cosmetic needs when used for TMJ. The relaxation helps prevent the grinding by relaxing the jaw enough. This is especially useful for people who are very tight and cannot relax their jaws by themselves.

Marijuana Use for TMJ Pain

In states where cannabis use is legal, some TMJ patients are finding relief from the pain and discomfort caused by TMJ by having a physician prescribe medical marijuana for their use. Many people all over the United States, where cannabis use is legal, medically use it to help resolve their pain issues. 

Chemicals in cannabis work together with a neurotransmitter called endocannabinoids which helps regulate inflammation and pain sensation in your body. Users then find relief from the pain of TMJ.

Physical Therapy to Help With TMJ Symptoms

Sometimes physicians will recommend TMJ patients try going to physical therapy.  A physical therapist can help the patient learn jaw exercises to improve flexibility, range of motion and strengthen their jaw muscles. 

Over time physical therapy helps you reduce pain by doing the exercises daily to prevent further damage to your teeth and relieve your pain. 

Biobehavioral Management as a TMJ Treatment

By seeing someone to help them manage their feelings and stress, TMJ patients can reduce or eliminate symptoms. Therapists using cognitive-behavioral therapy have helped patients significantly reduce the pain associated with TMJ. Studies suggest the results from a five-year study that participants were about to reduce pain to only mild and reported only mild sleep disturbances after this treatment. 

Prescription Drugs That Treat TMJ

Some more severe drug treatments are used to treat TMJ. These include muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory drugs like Celebrex. Occasionally steroid shots and other medicines may be deemed necessary. Sometimes doctors prescribe:

  • antidepressants,
  • sleep meds 
  • nerve pain medications

These medications can help alleviate pain from TMJ. 

Acupuncture As a Treatment for TMJ

Some success is achieved by using trigger point acupuncture. Acupuncture for centuries has been used to treat a variety of conditions. By inserting a needle in some regions of the body, patients have found relief from TMJ symptoms. Acupuncture can be used in combination with other treatments and, unlike most treatments, does not have any side effects. 

Acupuncture works by taking all the neuromuscular tension that you have in your jaw. Needles are placed in the nerves in your face and jaw and some in other areas of the body, including your elbows and knees. Acupuncture has great success in relieving TMJ symptoms and often helps with other health issues while using it for TMJ. 

Dental Surgery a Last Result for TMJ

TMJ arthroscopy is minimally invasive and is mainly done as an outpatient surgery procedure. Sometimes patients require more than the less invasive treatments can provide and may require surgery. Patients usually recover within a week. 

In more severe cases, a joint replacement is needed. This surgery is more powerful and requires several days in the hospital in most cases. 

To Conclude

TMJ can be an excruciating condition, but many treatment options can reduce or eliminate its symptoms. You may need to try several different treatments to see which one gives you the best relief. Consider trying the home remedies first before choosing surgery or prescription medications that may require long-term use and may have side effects. Patients can find comfort after treatment and have an enjoyable life without pain.