Can a TMJ Disorder Be Cured Permanently?
by Dr. Beau Beecher, DDS on 11/21/2023
You may have heard the term “TMJ,” or your friend, co-worker, or family member may have complained, “my TMJ is acting up” when experiencing a headache or jaw pain. It is reported that at least five to twelve percent of Americans suffer from a form of TMJ disorder. Learn more about this disorder, its causes, symptoms, ways to alleviate discomfort, and potential treatments.
What is TMJ? What is TMD?
Before defining TMJ, it's important to understand a broader term: temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). Different forms of this disorder can affect the joints in your jaw and the surrounding ligaments and muscles. People with TMJ disorder often experience uncomfortable physical conditions such as difficulty opening and closing the mouth, jaw pain, and headaches.
The acronym, TMJ, stands for temporomandibular joint and refers to two jaw joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull.
In casual conversation, the term "TMJ'' is often used inaccurately. For example, if you search "will my TMJ ever go away?" what you're actually asking is, “will my TMJ disorder ever go away?” Using the acronym "TMJ '' on its own can be misleading because it refers to an anatomical body part, which isn't something you want to go away. It’s more accurate to call it a TMD disorder, TMJ disorder, or TMJ dysfunction. In the subsequent sections of this article, we will consistently use the term "TMJ disorder" for clarity.
Symptoms of a TMJ Disorder
With a better understanding of what is a TMJ disorder, let’s explore its symptoms. The manifestation of symptoms may differ for each individual, but the following are the most commonly experienced:
- Jaw pain or jaw stiffness
- Facial, shoulder, or neck pain
- Toothaches or sensitive teeth
- Dull headaches and or intense migraines
- Earaches and or a ringing in the ears aka tinnitus
- Difficulty opening or closing the mouth
- Jaw clicking or popping
- A shift in your teeth’s alignment, also known as malocclusion
What Causes a TMJ Disorder?
Unfortunately, there is no one main cause of a TMJ disorder. It can be triggered by a variety of factors, such as:
- A broken, dislocated, or injured jaw
- Bruxism: teeth grinding or clenching
- Inflammation or arthritis in your jaw joints
- Missing or broken teeth
Can a TMJ Disorder Be Cured?
Because of the many forms of a TMJ disorder, the treatments can vary for each individual. For some, a TMJ disorder can resolve within a few weeks or months, especially if it was triggered by a stressful situation that has since passed. For others, it can be a lifelong condition that requires ongoing management or surgery to achieve a permanent cure. The following are solutions to either manage or treat a TMJ disorder.
Mouthguard or Night Guard
If bruxism or teeth grinding and clenching is the cause of your TMJ disorder, mouthguards or night guards can not only help protect your teeth from the excess pressure of grinding and clenching, but can also help alleviate the associated headaches and jaw pain that result from bruxism. While you can purchase these oral guards in the store, for more effective results, a dental professional can design a custom mouthguard or night guard for you.
Medications and Injections
To alleviate your TMJ pain, your dentist may prescribe pain medications or muscle relaxers. Additionally, corticosteroid injections into the joint or Botox injections into the jawbone area can also provide relief.
A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help strengthen your jaw joints and muscles, and also alleviate pain.
If a patient's TMJ disorder is caused by misaligned teeth, orthodontic solutions such as braces or Invisalign can effectively realign teeth. This may help resolve TMJ issues, alleviate pain, and for some patients, cure their TMJ disorder permanently.
If your TMJ disorder and pain are too severe, your doctor or dental professional might recommend surgery. There are various types of surgeries, ranging from the minimally invasive arthrocentesis to more intensive open-joint surgery, when the joint needs to be repaired or replaced.
Suffering From a TMJ Disorder? Kimball & Beecher Can Help
Whether you’re looking for an accurate diagnosis or treatment solution for your TMJ disorder, a Kimball and Beecher dentist can alleviate your suffering. Schedule an appointment with us to begin your journey toward managing or treating your TMJ disorder.