Techniques to Prevent and Treat TMJ Syndrome
TMJ Syndrome is incredibly common. It manifests itself in a great many ways and can be caused by one or more of several factors. What it comes down to, is the results of stress on the complex Temporomandibular joint, hence the TMJ abbreviation.
What are the Symptoms of TMJ Syndrome?
TMJ syndrome can play a role in a wide variety of symptoms. It can even cause migraine headaches, but the most obvious symptoms are those directly related to the musculature of the face and the jawbone itself.
- You struggle to open your mouth properly.
- Your jaw feels locked or stuck.
- Your face hurts when you chew or even when you talk.
- Your face swells up, often on one side.
- You have earache, sometimes with pain radiating down the neck.
- You hear clicking or grating noises when you move your jaw.
There’s Good News
Although TMJ Syndrome can sometimes be so severe that it requires surgery, it’s seldom that bad. If it comes from a habit or an injury, you can often prevent it from reaching the point where the actual bone and tendons are so badly damaged that you need surgery, that’s why it’s important to get to work on clearing up your TMJ as soon as possible.
For most patients, discovering what is causing their TMJ, and changing any habits that cause or aggravate it solves the problem. With a little rest, healing becomes possible. But sometimes, the habit that causes TMJ is bruxism or teeth grinding at night, and in this case, you need a little extra help.
Risk Factors to Avoid
Certain habits are worse for us than we realize. If, for example, you’re inclined to chew the end of your pen or pencil when you’re deep in thought, that could cause TMJ Syndrome.
Constant gum chewing has also been linked to TMJ, and so has playing wind instruments that require you to push your jaw into a forward position when playing. Do you bite your fingernails? It’s just one more of the habits that can injure your jaw.
One of the commonest causes of TMJ Syndrome is teeth clenching or teeth grinding. When it’s a daytime habit, it just takes a bit of focus to break it, but if you grind your teeth at night, you may need a little help from your dentist.
Treating TMJ Syndrome
Treatment begins with your dentist. You may need X-rays or even an MRI Scan because your dentist will be looking at how much damage has happened and what could have caused it. For example, arthritis can also cause TMJ Syndrome, as can tumours, infections, or structural problems.
Your dentist will also look at your teeth – they’ll show the signs of tooth grinding if you’re unconsciously hurting yourself at night. If your TMJ Syndrome comes from this, the solution is simple. Your dentist will have a splint custom made for you. You wear it at night, and it prevents your jaw from moving into positions that place strain on the jaw.
In more serious cases, your dentist may refer you to a specialist, or you may need physiotherapy to help you recover.
You’ll also get lots of good advice on how to prevent a flare-up. From switching your sleeping position to supporting your jaw when you yawn, there are many basic things you can do to prevent those uncomfortable symptoms from surfacing.
You can also try a few home remedies such as massaging your face or applying ice packs or heat to swollen areas. However, the first thing you should do when you think you may have TMJ Syndrome is to visit your dentist.