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Head Neck Pain 02

Types of TMJ disorders:

Head Neck Pain 03
TMJ disorders are broadly divided into three types:
  • Myofascial pain: This is the most common form of the disease and involves discomfort or pain in the muscles of the jaw, neck and shoulder.
  • Internal derangement of the joint: This type is caused by disease or damage inside the joint itself. It can be a displaced disc, dislocated jaw or a condylar injury.
  • Degenerative Joint disease: DJD occurs in people suffering from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The joint surfaces wear down causing pain and grinding noises during movement of the jaw.

Common causes of TMJ disorders

  • Stress: This is the main cause of TMJ pain. Stress leads to habits like clenching and grinding your teeth which can cause muscle spasm and jaw pain.
  • Diseases: Certain diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can cause pain in the joint. In both these conditions, the cartilage is lost and the bone surface erodes away.
  • Injury to the jaw: Injury can lead to fracture of the condyle and disc displacement.
  • Oral habits: Oral habits such as Bruxism (night grinding of teeth) or clenching leads to muscle spasms.
  • Bad bite or Malocclusion: Malalignment of the teeth and jaws can cause problems in the way your teeth fit with each other and place the masticatory muscles under stress.

Symptoms of TMJ disorders

You may come across the following symptoms:

  • Dull, aching type of pain in the jaw
  • Difficulty in swallowing, biting, opening and closing the mouth
  • Headache and dizziness
  • Clicking and popping sound on opening and closing the mouth
  • Pain in the ears
  • Stiffness in the jaw muscles

Diagnosis of TMJ disorders

Your dentist will ask you about your symptoms and medical history and also perform a physical examination.

Physical exam involves:
  • Examining your teeth, jaw joints, facial muscles and head.
  • Palpation of jaw joint, facial muscles and head.
  • Listening for clicking/popping sound when you open your jaw.
Other tests that may be ordered by your dentist:
  • X-rays: Panoramic dental X-rays can show a wide view of jaws, teeth and roots.
  • Tomogram: This type of x-ray shows different sections throughout the joint. It is used to diagnose arthritis and injuries.
  • CT scan: This type of scan uses a computer to make internal pictures of the joint and helps to see bony details.
  • MRI scan: Magnetic and radio waves are used to picture the jaw joint.
Treatment Options:
  • At home: You can apply warm compresses over the painful area. Exercise your lower jaw by moving it side to side and trying to open and close your mouth. Try this after you apply a warm compress for 20 minutes.
  • Medications: Muscle relaxant medicines are prescribed which will help control muscle spasm and pain. Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAID’s) like aspirin or ibuprofen will reduce pain and swelling. Low-dose antidepressants may also be given for pain modification.
  • Physical Therapy: Physical Therapy exercises help relax your muscles and improve jaw movements. Physiotherapists make use of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) unit and ultrasound which promotes tissue healing and helps relax your muscles.
  • Diet changes: You should eat a soft diet and eat small amounts of food at each sitting.
  • Splint therapy:
    This treatment is suggested to eliminate the effects of clenching or grinding the teeth. A splint is an appliance that fits over the chewing surfaces of your upper and lower teeth.

For those with a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), a moveable jaw repositioning appliance can be used to help train the jaw to close in the correct position. These are also known as splints and can be worn either on the upper or lower jaw.

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