Temporomandibular joint pain treatment

What is the temporomandibular joint?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint between the jaw bone and the temporal bone of the skull, located just in front of the ear. This joint can undergo a lot of wear and tear as it is used all day, every time you chew, talk, or swallow. Excessive strain on this joint can come from trauma, malocclusion (or teeth not lining up properly when biting down), or from clenching, gritting, or grinding your teeth.

Symptoms of temporomandibular joint dysfunction or pain

  • Ear pain
  • Sore jaw muscles
  • Temple/cheek pain
  • Jaw popping/clicking
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Difficulty opening the mouth fully
  • Frequent head and neck aches
  • Tinnitus

Since many of the symptoms of TMJ pain can mimic other head and neck problems, an evaluation by an otolaryngologist or ear, nose, and throat specialist is often necessary.

Treatment of temporomandibular joint pain

  • Resting the muscles and TMJ by eating soft foods
  • Not chewing gum
  • Avoid clenching or tensing; stress reduction
  • Relaxing muscles with moist heat (30 min at least, twice a day)
  • Ice packs if following joint injury
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Occlusal splint or “tooth guard” to prevent grinding or clenching of teeth
  • Dentist/oral surgery consultation may be needed for malocclusion or custom splints

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