TMJ Diagnosis & Treatment
To diagnose TMJ, your dentist or doctor will discuss the symptoms you are experiencing and carefully examine your jaw. He or she will also:
- Note the range of motion in your jaw
- Feel your jaw when you close or open your mouth
- Identify sites of discomfort or pain by pressing on areas around your jaw
If there is a need, your dentist will also order a few imaging tests, such as:
- MRI to detect problems with the joint’s disk or the soft tissue surrounding the area
- Dental X-rays for examining your jaw and teeth
- CT scan for having detailed pictures of the joint’s bones
In some more advanced cases, TMJ arthroscopy is highly beneficial in diagnosing a TMJ disorder. During this procedure, the doctor inserts a cannula into the joint space, and an arthroscope (a small camera) is then inserted for viewing the area which helps in making a correct diagnosis.
Treatment and Medications
Sometimes, the symptoms of TMJ disorders subside without any medical intervention. However, if the symptoms persist, the doctor may suggest suitable treatment options, which are often more than one.
In addition to other nonsurgical treatments, the following medication options can relieve the pain that stems from TMJ disorders:
Muscle relaxants: Such drugs are typically used for a few days or weeks to relieve pain that originates from muscle spasms.
Anti-inflammatories and Pain relievers: In case over-the-counter pain medications do not offer any significant relief, your doctor is likely to prescribe stronger pain relievers or anti-inflammatories to reduce pain; for instance, ibuprofen.
Tricyclic antidepressants: While these medications are typically used for lowering depression levels, they are also popular options for relieving pain and sleeplessness. Your doctor may recommend these medications, depending on the severity of your symptoms.
There are some tested non-drug therapies which are helpful for treating TMJ disorders:
Occlusal appliances: These mouth guards or oral splints benefit people who experience frequent jaw pain.
Physical therapy: In addition to jaw-strengthening exercises, this treatment methodology includes the application of moist heat, ice, and ultrasound tests.
Counseling: Counseling plays a crucial role to better understand the behaviors and factors that worsen your pain. These triggers may include biting fingernails, grinding or clenching your teeth, or leaning on your chin.
Acupuncture: A trained acupuncture specialist can treat chronic pain and other symptoms associated with TMJ disorders.
or Minimally Invasive Procedures
In case, medications and physical therapies do not offer any significant relief, your doctor may recommend a variety of different procedures such as:
Arthrocentesis: This procedure refers to a minimally invasive procedure that entails the insertion of small needles into the joint to irrigate the fluid through the joint for removing all inflammatory byproducts and debris.
Injections: In many cases, corticosteroid injections into the joint are helpful. Botox or other injections can rarely relieve pain in the jaw muscles which are involved in chewing.
TMJ arthroscopy: In some specific TMJ Disorders, arthroscopic surgery can be an effective technique. It has fewer risks and complications than open-joint surgery. However, it has its limitations.
Your doctor will place a small thin tube or a cannula into the joint space and an arthroscope is inserted. The doctor will conduct the procedure using small surgical instruments.
Modified condylotomy: The process takes care of TMJ indirectly, as the doctor conducts surgery on the mandible, but not in the joint itself. It can help in lockjaw situations and help in pain relief.
Open-joint surgery: This treatment is suggested when the jaw pain doesn’t subside and there seems to be a structural problem in the joint. Arthrotomy or open-joint surgery is performed to replace or repair the joint. Since there are more risks involved than other treatment methods, your doctor will only recommend this option after carefully evaluating the pros and cons of the treatment method.
Home Remedies and Lifestyle Modifications
Alternative medicine: Alternative and complementary medicine techniques are also found to be successful in alleviating pain associated with TMJ disorders.
Breathing exercises: Practicing deep and regular breathing or slowing your breathing can relax tense muscles to reduce pain.
Biofeedback: Electronic devices are used to monitor the tightness of specific muscles so patients can practice effective relaxation techniques.
Meditation: it is a very good technique to reduce stress. By controlling and reducing your stress level, it helps you to have fewer TMJ symptoms.
When to Seek an Appointment?
If over-the-counter pain relievers or home remedies do not reduce the frequency and severity of your pain, it is important you seek medical assistance. Schedule an appointment to discuss all symptoms with your family dentist or doctor so he/she can make a correct diagnosis. Your family physician may also refer you to a specialist who specifically deals with TMJ disorders to examine your jaw.
What to expect from an appointment?
Your doctor may ask a few of the following questions:
- Have you ever experienced this type of pain in the past?
- When did your symptoms first appear?
- Are you going through any stressful events?
- Do you experience frequent neck aches, headaches, or toothaches?
- Are you taking any medications or supplements?
- Is your pain constant or periodic?
- What activities trigger or worsen your pain?
- Do you experience any painful popping or clicking of the jaw when you move it?
- Do you find it difficult to open your mouth normally?
Your dentist or doctor may inquire any additional information based on your needs, symptoms, and responses. It is important that you describe all painful symptoms and any information that will help to make the diagnosis and suggesting the most appropriate treatment option.