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Deciding on the Right TMJ treatment in Denver

March 13, 2018

TMJ is short for temporomandibular joint, and the TMJ is like a hinge that connects your jawbone to your skill. When you have pain in your jaw joint or in the muscles around it, it is called a TMJ disorder. Deciding on the right TMJ treatment in Denver isn’t always easy, and it might depend on the reason behind the disorder.

TMJ disorders can be caused by the bad luck of genetics, an injury to the jaw, or an arthritis condition. Sometimes people who clench or grind their teeth develop TMJ disorders. There are a variety of TMJ treatments available for people who are experiencing pain.

TMJ disorders can manifest themselves in a variety of ways. You may feel pain or tenderness in the joint area, in your neck or shoulders, or even around your ears. You might have issues if you try to open your mouth wide for yawning. Your jaws might get locked into position, or you might hear clicking or popping sounds coming from your jaw joint when you speak or chew. Chewing might be uncomfortable. Your face might become swollen in the area near the TMJ.

Most problems, whether muscular or within the joint, improve with the passage of time, so starting out with the most conservative treatment is usually your best bet.

Tips for Relief You Can Try on Your Own

These tips might help relieve your TMJ pain or discomfort:
  • Try to avoid yawning—or yawn as little as possible. When you do yawn, try to press your fist under your chin to keep your mouth from opening too much.
  • Don’t chew on ice or gum.
  • Stop using extreme jaw movements, such as singing and yelling
  • Yawn and chew (especially gum or ice) as little as possible.
  • Avoid extreme jaw movements, such as yelling or singing.
  • Try to rest your jaw naturally as much as possible. This means keeping your teeth and lips slightly apart.
  • Sleep on your back as much as possible. Especially avoid sleeping on your stomach.
  • Don't rest your chin on your hand or hold the telephone between your shoulder and ear.
  • Try to reduce stress.
  • Eat soft foods that don’t require a lot of chewing. Suggestions include smoothies, cottage cheese, soups, yogurt, and so on.
  • Avoid hard or thick foods that require you to open your mouth wide and are difficult to chew.
  • See a physical therapist who can work with your head and neck simultaneously. A physical therapist can also recommend specific exercises to do to help relieve your pain.
You might want to check out what the TMJ Association—yes, there is an association for this disorder—has to say about TMJ treatments, including its list of recommended resources.

Therapies to Treat TMJ Disorders

Some of the more common therapies to treat TMJ disorders include the following:
  • Oral appliance or mouth guard. If you are clenching or grinding your teeth (bruxism)—especially at night when you sleep—these appliances can be helpful. If you are not sure if you are dealing with bruxism, your dentist should be able to tell you based on the condition of your teeth. If your bite is off, this too can cause TMJ pain, and your dentist can help you address this issue as well.
  • Physical therapy. As mentioned previously, physical therapy can be helpful. Treatments might include ultrasound and moist heat and ice. A physical therapist can also show you exercises to do that will help strengthen and lengthen jaw muscles. Often a regimen of ice, heat, and exercise will relieve symptoms.
  • Counseling. It might sound odd, but if you are performing behaviors such as biting your fingernails or grinding your teeth that are exacerbating your TMJ pain, understanding why you are doing them can you stop. Often this is all you need to stop your TMJ pain.

Medications to Treat TMJ Disorders

When you are trying nonsurgical treatments for TMJ disorders, your doctor might prescribe some type of mediation to go along with it. Here is a list of those that have been shown to help:
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories—also known as NSAIDs—can provide relief with TMJ pain. If over-the-counter pain relievers such as Advil, Motrin, and others aren’t enough, you can ask your doctor or dentist for a prescription for one that is stronger.
  • Muscle relaxants can be used for a limited period of time to provide relief of TMJ disorder symptoms.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants often have a secondary use other than for depression, and that includes pain relief. Your doctor can give you more information.

Surgeries to Treat TMJ Disorders

Surgery is typically a last resort after conservative measures have been exhausted, but some people with TMJ disorders may benefit from surgical treatments. These procedures might help where other treatments have failed:
  • One option that is minimally invasive is called arthrocentesis. With this procedure, small needles are put into the TMJ so fluid can be used to flush out debris from the joint.
  • Corticosteroid injections into the TMJ might help some suffers. In some cases, Botox injections into the jaw muscle are now being used to relieve some of the pain.
  • Modified condylotomy is surgery on the mandible but not in the joint itself. This procedure is more helpful on those whose jaw locks up.
  • Open-joint surgery (arthrotomy) repairs or replaces the actual join. This is done only in extreme cases because of the risks.
  • Arthroscopic surgery is preferred because there are fewer risks than in open-joint surgery. With this type of surgery, an arthroscope is inserted into the joint space via a small tube. Small surgical instruments are used to treat the joint.
If your doctor recommends surgery, be sure to discuss the potential benefits and risks, and ask what all your options are.
Contact us today to find out more about how physical therapy can help with your TMJ or TMJ. With offices throughout the Denver metro area, including south Denver, Highlands Ranch, Lowry, Parker, Aurora, and Englewood, you can be sure that one is conveniently located near you. We look forward to working with you and helping you live a healthy, pain-free lifestyle!