All About TMJ Disorder - Symptoms, Treatments, and More

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All About TMJ Disorder - Symptoms, Treatments, and More

If you experience uncomfortable symptoms related to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD, or simply TMJ), there is a wide variety of treatments available. Before resorting to costly and painful surgical interventions, try a noninvasive method like a mouthguard for TMJ from CustMbite. Our TMJ mouth guards are a convenient, affordable way to address discomfort caused by TMJ. Read on to learn more about the risks and causes, symptoms, treatments, and ways to prevent TMJD from affecting your overall health.

What is TMJ? 

TMJ disorder affects the muscles and nerves of the jaw. The temporomandibular joint allows your mouth to open and close. Between the ball and socket of the joint, there is a disc that cushions the two bones as they rotate and glide while you chew, speak, or swallow. TMJD is caused by inflammation or injury to the temporomandibular joint that prevents the bones, discs, muscles, and ligaments from working correctly. Patients report a variety of common symptoms, the most common being tooth pain and sensitivity: 

Aggregated data from https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/research/data-statistics/facial-pain/prevalence

However, TMJD also has the potential to lead to dislocation of the temporomandibular joint, swelling on the sides of your face, sleep disruption, and other serious complications. It’s estimated that between 5 and 12 percent of American citizens suffer from TMJ, and 20 to 30 percent of the population deals with symptoms of temporomandibular disorders. Each year, TMJ patients spend approximately $4 billion dollars on treatments and surgeries that have varying levels of efficacy.

TMJD is the most common cause of facial pain and is second only to lower back pain as the most common painful musculoskeletal condition. If you suffer from the symptoms of TMJ, there are a number of factors you’ll want to understand before deciding on a course of treatment. 

Are there risk factors that could increase my chance of TMJD?

The causes of temporomandibular joint disorder are not completely understood by doctors. Many different factors can contribute to the symptoms of TMJ, and these may lead to TMJD or be a result of TMJD. Some of the most common risk factors that increase your likelihood of a TMJ diagnosis are: 

However, some dental professionals cite an increased risk for TMJ if you experience seemingly unrelated aspects you might not have previously considered, such as poor posture, emotional stress and anxiety, or even excessive chewing gum consumption. Strenuous physical tasks can also aggravate TMJ because they can cause bruxism and harsh use of the jaw muscles. Wearing a CustMbite TMJ mouthguard is an easy way to alleviate this type of pressure on your teeth.

Common TMJD symptoms

TMJD can cause a wide range of side effects beyond those you might typically associate with temporomandibular joint disorders. If you experience any of these symptoms, consult with a dentist or doctor to discuss your symptoms and risk factors. 

  • Head and scalp: TMJ patients have reported pain in the forehead and/or temples, migraine-like discomfort, sinus pain, cheek pain, and a shooting sensation traveling from the back of the neck into the head. Some people also find that their hair and scalp feel tender.
  • Eyes: People with TMJD might notice that their eyes are bloodshot or sensitive to light. An improperly situated temporomandibular joint may also cause one’s eyes to bulge.
  • Ears: Along with general ear pain, some people say their ears feel clogged or itchy. TMJ patients also report changes in their hearing, including hissing, buzzing, or ringing(tinnitus). A misaligned TMJ can also contribute to dizziness.
  • Mouth and jaw: People suffering from TMJD often experience limited mobility. Some of the classic indicators of TMJ are trouble opening the mouth smoothly, the jaw shifting to one side or the other when opening the mouth, or having the jaw lock closed or open. TMJ can also cause grating sounds, clicks or pops in your joints, and uncontrollable movements of the jaw and/or tongue.
  • Teeth: Loose or sore back teeth are a common symptom of TMJD, and bruxism (teeth clenching or grinding) may exacerbate the condition.
  • Throat: TMJ patients may have difficulty swallowing or have a sore throat without any other infection that might be the cause of discomfort. Laryngitis may also occur.
  • Neck: People with TMJD may experience neck stiffness and pain and tired or sore neck muscles.
  • Arm and shoulder: Arm and finger numbness sometimes occur in TMJD patients. Many patients also experience shoulder soreness and backaches, particularly if posture is a contributing factor to their TMJD.

After your TMJD diagnosis

It’s important to be examined properly before embarking on a treatment plan. However, there’s no single standard test designed to diagnose TMJ. The majority of cases can be diagnosed with a simple physical examination and a discussion of your symptoms. These factors are considered along with dental x-rays and casts to rule out other conditions like toothaches or sinus problems that mimic the symptoms of TMJD. 

If you are diagnosed with TMJD, there are a variety of paths you can take to treat your symptoms. On one end of the spectrum, there are noninvasive at-home interventions like special exercises, TMJ mouth guards, and modified diet plans. At the other end, there are several different types of TMJ surgery. 

What are my options for TMJ surgery?

There are several different surgeries available for patients with TMJ, ranging from outpatient procedures to invasive and extensive surgeries. All types of TMJ surgery are typically used as a last resort, as any surgical procedure carries risks and frequently involves a painful recovery. It’s important to consider that TMJ surgery doesn’t always work, and a surgical procedure may make your symptoms worse. The most common types of TMJ surgery are:

  • Arthrocentesis: This outpatient procedure is the least invasive of TMJ surgeries. A doctor will add fluid to lubricate the joint by inserting a small needle into the joint. Arthrocentesis can also be used to remove painful irritants inside the joint. 
  • Disc repositioning: If the cushioning disc of your TMJ is out of place, this procedure may be recommended. A doctor will put the disc back into its proper position and secure it with a suture. This procedure generally requires a hospital stay. 
  • Condylotomy: If you experience locking of the jaw or restricted movement, a condylotomy may be performed. During this inpatient procedure, a doctor will carefully and intentionally fracture the jawbone to reposition it. 
  • Discectomy: This inpatient surgery is followed by a long recovery. During this procedure, the doctor will remove the joint’s cushioning disc in an effort to coax your body to replace it with new cushioning. After your surgery, your jaw may need to be wired shut.
  • Joint replacement: This most invasive of TMJ surgeries may involve reshaping your joint, removing diseased parts of the bone, or prosthetics that replace parts of the jawbone. This TMJ surgery is followed by a recovery period that can be four weeks or more, and often requires lifelong dietary restrictions as well.

Despite the risks associated with invasive procedures, the frequency of TMJ surgeries is growing. From 2005 to 2014, the number of patients that received a total joint replacement (TJR) increased by over 38 percent, and the number is only predicted to rise in the coming years. One study published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery indicated that by 2024, the rate of this type of TMJ surgery will increase by an additional 38 percent. 

Aggregated data from https://www.joms.org/article/S0278-2391(16)30111-2/pdf

Noninvasive treatment methods for TMJ

Before agreeing to expensive TMJ surgery, it’s always wise to get a second opinion. Your dentist or doctor may also recommend that you try less invasive techniques, like TMJ exercises, chiropractic treatments, consuming a modified diet, practicing mindfulness and relaxation, and wearing a TMJ mouth guard from CustMbite before committing to surgery. Many TMJ patients find success with one or a combination of these methods, and a dentist or TMJ specialist can help you choose the treatment that’s right for you. Here’s an overview of some of the alternatives to TMJ surgery.

Can a chiropractor help with TMJ? 

Many people find that chiropractic treatments help to alleviate the pain caused by TMJ symptoms. It can also be beneficial for patients who have posture issues that contribute to their TMJD. Chiropractic treatments help to release spinal tension. As this tension is released, pressure on certain nerves can be reduced. 

However, this isn’t a one-and-done procedure. TMJ patients who find relief through chiropractic care often need ongoing care to keep the side effects of TMJD at bay. 

Can TMJ exercises help to relieve painful side effects?

One of the easiest things that TMJ patients can incorporate into their daily routine are exercises designed to increase jaw mobility and to strengthen, relax, and stretch the jaw. A recent study in the Journal of Dental Research showed that TMJ exercises are effective in helping people to increase their mouth opening range. Your dentist can provide more information on which exercises are appropriate for you and how often you should repeat them. A few of the most widely recommended TMJ exercises are

  • Forward jaw movement: With a thin object between your front teeth, move your bottom jaw forward. As your jaw becomes accustomed to the movement, use a thicker object between your teeth. 
  • Side-to-side jaw movement: With a thin object between your front teeth, move your jaw from side to side. As your jaw becomes accustomed to this movement, increase the thickness of the object between your teeth.
  • Opening the mouth with resistance: With your thumb providing gentle resistance under your chin, open your mouth slowly. Hold for 3-5 seconds, then slowly close your mouth.
  • Closing the mouth with resistance: While squeezing your chin with the thumb and index finger of one hand, close your mouth while applying gentle pressure. 
  • Mouth movement with tongue up: Slowly open and close your mouth as you press your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
  • Chin tucks: Create a double chin by pulling your chin straight back. Be sure to keep your shoulders back and your chest open.
  • “Goldfish” exercises: There are both partial and full versions of this exercise. Both begin with placing a finger on your chin and your temporomandibular joint. While gently pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth, partially or fully drop your jaw. 
  • Relaxed jaw exercise: While resting your tongue behind the front of your top teeth, let your teeth come apart as your jaw relaxes.

Most TMJ patients experience the best results when they use TMJ exercises in tandem with other noninvasive treatments. For example, if your TMJD is exacerbated by anxiety or stress, relaxation techniques can be a great help. Many doctors and dentists also recommend the use of a TMJ mouthguard, which is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to address some of the underlying causes of TMJD.

How does a mouthguard for TMJ work? 

One of the most effective ways to address the side effects of TMJ is to wear a mouthguard, particularly if your TMJ is aggravated by bruxing or clenching. A mouthpiece for TMJ is able to alleviate some of the pressure on your teeth and jaw by providing a cushion between your teeth. Obtaining a mouthguard for TMJ from the dentist’s office can be an expensive and inconvenient process, so many patients choose to look into alternative options. When choosing a mouthguard for TMJ, you’ll want to consider several factors:

  • Ease of use: Is the TMJ mouthguard easy to mold?
  • Hygiene: When you wear a mouth guard for TMJ, it should be easy to care for.
  • Comfort: To get the best results from your TMJ mouthguard, it’s important to choose a mouthguard that’s comfortable enough for regular wear. 

Many TMJ devices on the market today fall short in one or more of these categories. At CustMbite, we partnered with dental professionals to develop our mouth guards for TMJ. We considered each of these factors to create the best mouthguard for TMJ available today. CustMbite mouth guards for TMJ are made from VistaMaxx, a patented fitting material that’s:

  • Easy to custom-fit to your mouth, requiring just a couple of minutes of your time and a microwave
  • Nonporous and resistant to bacteria. All you need to wash away germs is a dishwasher or soap and water - no special cleaners necessary
  • FDA-cleared and free of latex, phthalate, PVC, and BP
  • Thin enough to wear comfortably, so if your doctor recommends that you wear a guard during the day, a CustMbite TMJ mouth guard allows you to speak, drink, and breathe just as easily as you do when you’re not wearing a guard

Can TMJ go away on its own? 

Some people who suffer from TMJ ignore symptoms in the hope that they’ll resolve themselves without intervention. For example, if emotional factors contribute to one’s TMJ, they may experience fewer side effects when external anxieties or stresses wane. And while it’s true that a portion of TMJ patients find their symptoms decrease or even disappear on their own, this is the exception and not the rule. Symptoms like teeth grinding can dissipate and then come back.

The consequences of leaving minor symptoms of TMJ untreated can lead to major health issues in the future, from ongoing migraine headaches, sleep disturbances, and upper body discomfort to permanent hearing damage and loss. Doctors and dentists also note an increased risk of dependence on alcohol and pain medication used to manage the discomfort of TMJD.

Fortunately, TMJ surgery is generally not the first recommendation of doctors and dentists. In fact, symptoms of TMJ can frequently be ameliorated with simple, noninvasive methods such as exercises designed to strengthen the jaw and wearing a CustMbite mouthguard for TMJ. It’s well worth investing your time now to protect your health in the future.

TMJ Treatment Costs

The prices you’ll pay to treat TMJ will vary, but here are some general estimates:

Aggregated data from https://health.costhelper.com/temporomandibular-joint.html

For the majority of people, the best treatment for TMJD is the least invasive option that provides relief. Since there are so many risks involved in TMJ surgery, you should exhaust the noninvasive treatments that are appropriate for your situation. 

It’s also important to give yourself the best chance to see results from noninvasive methods like wearing a TMJ mouthguard from CustMbite. Skipping TMJ exercises or neglecting to wear your mouthguard can inflame your temporomandibular joint, setting back progress. 

Some patients find it effective to incorporate treatments into their everyday habits. For example, you might try inserting a TMJ mouthguard from CustMbite into your bedtime routine or practice your TMJ exercises during your commute. But whether you tie a string around your finger or set a daily alert on your phone, remember to be diligent and consistent.

Alleviate TMJ pain without surgery

Though the symptoms of TMJD are painful, it’s estimated that only 15 percent of patients will develop chronic TMJ disorder. Many people are able to reduce or even eliminate the side effects of TMJD through noninvasive and natural methods. CustMbite offers an effective, affordable, over the counter way to alleviate the symptoms of your TMJ. If you’re looking for relief without resorting to TMJ surgery, try the best TMJ mouth guard today.

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