Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction – Overview
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a sliding hinge-like joint that connects your jawbones to your skull. There is one TMJ on each side of your jaw.
Temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) results in a painful jaw joint, especially in the muscles that control your jaw’s movement.
There could be various reasons that can cause TMD. It could be caused by a combination of jaw injury, arthritis, and genetic problems.
In the majority of cases, the pain and soreness caused by TMD is temporary and is relieved, usually through self-care or non-surgical treatments.
Although surgery is the last resort in such cases, doctors usually advised a patient suffering from TMD to undergo temporomandibular joint dysfunction treatment using medical devices.
Symptoms of Temporomandibular Dysfunction
The major signs and symptoms of temporomandibular joint dysfunction usually include:
- Tenderness or pain in the jaw
- One or both temporomandibular joints become painful
- Difficulty or pain while chewing
- The ache in and around your ear
- Aching facial pain
- The Joint gets locked and makes it difficult to close or open your mouth
Usually, a person suffering from TMD can feel a grating sensation or clicking sound when they open their mouth or chew.
However, in case there is no pain or restriction of jaw movement, then you might not need treatment for TMD.
Causes of Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction
Normally, film cartilage covers the parts of the bones in the jaw that interact with each other. A small shock-absorbing disc separates the bones and cartilage. This helps the bones to slide and interact smoothly.
However, you can feel the pain of TMD disorder when:
- The disc erodes/shifts off its natural alignment
- The cartilage of the joint gets damaged by arthritis
- The joint may get damaged by an impact or injury
Despite these known causes, sometimes it might not be possible to detect the specific cause of TMD.
Some of the risk factors that may increase the chances of a person developing TMD are:
- Jaw injury
- Arthritis – osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic clenching or grinding of teeth
- Connective tissues may get infected or diseased and affect the temporomandibular joint
Treatments for Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction
Some cases of TMD usually get resolved naturally after a while, without the need for treatment. However, if your symptoms persist then it is highly recommended to consult a doctor. They may recommend different types of TMD treatment, which include:
Apart from other non-surgical treatments, these are some of the medications that may help alleviate the pain caused by TMJ dysfunction:
- Anti-Inflammatory and Pain Relievers – In case over-the-counter pain medications are not usually enough to treat TMD, your doctor / dentist may prescribe strong pain relievers for a short period of time, such as prescription-grade ibuprofen.
- Muscle relaxants – These medications are usually used for a few days or weeks. It helps to relieve the pain caused by TMD through muscle spasms.
- Tricyclic relaxants – These medications are mostly used for treating depression. However, when used in lower doses, it can at times provide significant pain relief and excellent sleep.
Some of the non-medication treatments for TMD include:
- Mouth Guards/Oral Splints – Usually, people suffering from jaw pain benefit from wearing a firm or soft device that covers their teeth.
- Physiotherapy – Apart from exercises to strengthen and stretch jaw muscles, the doctor might prescribe treatments, such as moist heat and ice along with an ultrasound.
- Counseling – Counseling and educating can help the patients to understand the behaviors and factors that may increase their pain. This helps them to avoid such factors and prevent pain in the jaw.
In case non-surgical methods are not helpful, the doctor may prescribe any of the below-given surgical or other types of treatment for TMD:
- Arthrocentesis – This is a minimally invasive surgical procedure. It involves inserting small needles into the joint. These help to drain any fluid and any debris along with inflammatory causes.
- Arthroscopy – In some cases, arthroscopic surgery can be highly effective in treating TMD dysfunctions of various types. In this, a small thin tube called a cannula is inserted into the joint space. Then an arthroscope is inserted through the cannula. The surgeon / dentist can use tiny surgical instruments attached to the arthroscope to rectify the cause of jaw pain.
- Open joint surgery – In case your jaw pain is not treated successfully using the above-given treatment methods, then the surgeon can advise you to undergo an open-joint surgery. This is especially true if your jaw pain is being caused by a structural malfunction in the joint. An arthrotomy (open-joint surgery) is usually advised in such cases. It helps to replace or repair the affected joint. However, this treatment method has more risks than other treatment methods for TMD. Hence, it should be considered after a thorough discussion with your dentist/surgeon.
Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Medical Devices
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) can be also treated using several types of TMD medical devices. These devices are designed to replace the affected joint parts or replace the disc or glenoid fossa.
Some types of devices are designed to replace the complete jaw joint too. These devices are helpful to restore functioning in the affected joint by alleviating the pain.
However, there are chances that a TMD medical device may not be able to treat your condition completely.
These medical devices are designed to restore normal function in your affected jaw, including closing and opening your mouth and chewing.
Still, you must remember that jaw movement is not restored completely with every TMD medical device implantation.
You can be recommended a TMD medical device treatment if other treatment types are unsuccessful, including non-surgical methods. This surgery is usually advised for people who have previously undergone joint reconstruction.
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction medical devices are usually the last resort of treatment. It is mostly recommended when other non-surgical and medication methods fail to successfully treat your condition.
It is strongly advised to reassure that you will not face any adverse effects of an implant.
The dentist/surgeon will initially evaluate your overall health to check for risks before recommending that you get temporomandibular joint dysfunction medical device treatments.