Temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ disorder is a condition name which is used to cover dysfunction and pain of the muscles of mastication as well as the temporomandibular joints. TMJ are those joints which connect together the skull and the mandible. The disorder is mostly related to pain and discomfort which also accompanies restricted mandibular movement at the time of jaw movement. This condition is not life threatening but can cause negative effect on the quality of life of the patient because some of its signs and symptoms are chronic and may be difficult to deal with.
It is a fact that about 25% of the adult population across the world are affected by TMJ disorder in some way or the other and the age bracket of the people who usually suffer from it is between 20 and 40 years. Females are more as a risk to experience it in comparison to males and it is rather shocking to know that TMJD is the second most common reason for orofacial pain after toothache or any other kind of dental pain.
Signs and symptoms of Temporomandibular joint disorder
There are various types of symptoms of TMJD and some of the most common ones have been provided below.
1. Tenderness accompanied with pain on palpation in the muscles of mastication is the most known sign or symptom of this disorder. This pain may sometimes be caused on the joint itself which is also commonly referred to as preauricular pain. This pain is felt only in front of the ear. This symptom of pain is usually aggravated due to movement of the jaw. For example, one may experience it even more during chewing, yawning, clenching and even on waking up. The pain is usually poorly localised and one may experience a dull and aching form. Only in some cases is the pain constant and sharp. It is usually located just on one side rather than being bilateral.
2. Another common sign or symptom of temporomandibular joint dysfunction is limited range of mandibular movement. Due to this limited range, one may find it difficult to eat and sometimes even talk. The jaw may get locked or the patient may experience an uncomfortable stiffness in the muscles of the jaw. This usually happens on waking up. This symptom is accompanied with asymmetry and incoordination of the mandibular movement.
3. Headaches too can be caused due to this disorder and this too is an indication of the same. Pain can be either in the forehead or on the back side of the head. There are several other types of pains too which one may experience and they include facial pains, tension headaches, migraines and myofascial pains.
4. Another sign is noises coming from the joints during mandibular movement. These noises include popping sounds, clicking sounds and grating sounds as well.
5. Some other symptoms include tinnitus, dizziness, pain in the teeth or neck and sensation of malocclusion.
Diagnosis and treatment of TMJD
It is due to the pain that people may seek medical advice. The joint noises can be detected through stethoscope by the physician and may require auscultation. There are many ways in which the condition can be diagnosed. The doctors may confirm the presence of this condition if the pain has been for more than 3 months, through X-Ray or MRI Scan, asymmetric mandibular movement either without or with clicking. Pain in muscles of mastication etc.
In some cases, the symptoms and signs of TMJ disorders may go away without any treatment or medication. However if the signs and symptoms persist then the doctor may recommend either one or a combination of treatments, some of which are given as follows:
1. Various kinds of medications such as pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, tricyclic antidepressants etc may be recommended to the patients.
2. Some non drug therapies which can be used for relieving TMJD include physical therapy, counselling, mouth guards, oral splints.
3. Some of the surgical procedures or other kind of treatments include injections, athrocentesis, TMJ arthroscopy, open joint surgery, modified codylotomy and others.
For self management, one can do the following:
1. Wet a towel in warm water and apply it to the painful part of the jaw for 20 minutes about 2 to 3 times everyday.
2. Try to keep your teeth apart when you are not chewing anything as teeth should not be in touch.
3. Restrict your diet to soft and nutritious foods and avoid chewy foods like candy.
4. Avoid caffeine as it stimulates the muscles and makes them more tense.
5. Maintain good habits and a good overall posture.
Now that you know all about TMJD, you can try and avoid it by following self management techniques.