The temporomandibular (TM) joint is a connection between the jaw and the skull. TMJ dysfunction can be caused by an injury to this joint or it becoming damaged. TMD may also be induced by misalignment of teeth, chewing on gum, arthritis, tooth grinding, or a jaw fracture.
TMJ problems cause pain in the jaw, popping jaws, headaches, aching jaw muscles, locking of the jaw, and pain in the temples and ears. It’s crucial to remember that the temporomandibular joint is made up of bones, tendons, and muscles, which means you could have discomfort on either side of your mouth.
There is no standard approach to detecting TMD. A physician will review your medical history and conduct an examination. Your doctor may send you to a dentist specializing in jaw disorders or an otolaryngologist for further evaluation. Trigeminal neuralgia, salivary gland problems, or swollen lymph nodes are all possible causes of your symptoms
Home treatments may help with the symptoms of TMJ dysfunction on rare occasions. Over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen and aspirin work for many people. Applying ice packs to the jaw joint can also ease discomfort. Sedative essential oils, such as clary sage and lavender, might provide relief in the short term.
When home remedies don’t work, medical treatment may be needed. A jaw specialist may use a dental splint to keep teeth properly aligned and to prevent tooth grinding. Other types of medical treatment include trigger point acupuncture, joint replacement, or a TMJ arthroscopy. Muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatory meds may be prescribed.
Physical Therapy is effective in the treatment of TMD. A physical therapist will analyze your jaw mobility and release muscle tension in the neck and head area. A comprehensive evaluation is done of the neck, shoulder girdle and thoracic spine to determine if those structures are causing your symptoms.
The goal of physical therapy is to restore the interaction of the muscles and joints and to restore normal function. Treatment may consist of different modalities. Active modalities include soft tissue massage, joint mobilization, myofascial techniques and jaw exercises. Electric stimulation and ultrasound may be used to decrease muscle tension and provide pain relief. In addition, a physical therapist can educate you on dietary changes that will decrease stress on the jaw joint.
Dentists are increasingly collaborating with specialized physical therapists to provide effective therapy for those suffering from TMJ disorder. This collaboration has resulted in an overall improvement of over 80% in the cases examined. Working with a physical therapist that comprehends craniofacial anomalies is critical to success. These specialist physical therapists will be aware of the link between the neck and teeth regions, as well as other related problems. Because dentists can describe the fundamental issues and help Therapist design specific exercises, this team effort is successful.
When physical therapists treat patients with TMD, the goal is to improve mobility and alignment along with strengthening the muscles. And if the patient has scar tissue, they can help treat that too.
If you have been having difficulty with chewing, yawning, or jaw pain, you might be suffering from TMJ Dysfunction. The good news is that there are Physical Therapists ready to help you manage and eliminate your symptoms!