What Is TMJ Syndrome? Here Are Its Symptoms, Causes, Treatment And Side-Effects

What is TMJ disorder? Ho to get rid of it? When should one seek medical advice? Is there any self-treatment for TMJ disorder? How to prevent it?

Tavishi Dogra
Written by: Tavishi DograUpdated at: Jan 14, 2021 12:24 IST
What Is TMJ Syndrome? Here Are Its Symptoms, Causes, Treatment And Side-Effects

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What is TMJ syndrome? TMJ syndrome is a type of disorder that can cause pain in a person’s jaw joint or in the muscles that control the jaw movement. TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder occurs when there is an injury or damage to the temporomandibular joint. This condition usually results from a localized pain in which the muscles controlling the jaw's movement are also affected. Some people suffering from this disease tend to grind their teeth. However, it's not always easy to discover the specific cause of TMJ disorder because a combination of different factors may cause the condition. What is the cost of treatment? The price of 10 mg of amitriptyline oral tablet is about 600 rupees.  Ten tablets of ibuprofen are available within the price range of Rs 10. Oral splints are available in India within the Rs 500 price range. And you can spend anything between Rs 20000 - Rs 300000. 

Symptoms of TMJ syndrome 

Symptoms of TMJ syndrome

It's not always easy to understand what is causing the person experiencing TMJ disorder. However, some symptoms that a person may experience if they are suffering from TMJ syndrome or tenderness or pain on the jaw, unbearable pain in the face, pain while chewing and pain around and in the ear. A person will typically experience pain in one or both temporomandibular joints and joint locking may make it difficult to open or close their mouths.

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Causes of TMJ syndrome 

Factors causing this condition are injury to the teeth or jaw, arthritis or locking of the jaw joint. A TMJ joint typically involves a hinge action with sliding motions. The joint's smooth movement is ensured by a small disc that absorbs shock while the other bones adjacent to this joint are covered with cartilage. The traumatic effects of TMJ disorder can occur if there is a change in the small disc's alignment or erased if the joint's cartilage is damaged due to arthritis or due to an external injury.

TMJ syndrome

TMJ syndrome: When should one seek medical advice?

A physician usually diagnoses TMJ disorder. If one’s jaws hurt or a clicking or a popping sound when they open their mouth, the chances are that they may be suffering from TMJ syndrome. The doctor will look at your jaw and examine when a patient opens or closes their mouth and pressurises the areas around the jaw to indicate the pain's exact location. Therefore, they should seek medical advice.

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How to get rid of TMJ Syndrome: Medication and remedies?

Biofeedback involves using electronic devices that can monitor particular muscle tightness and help a person effectively practice techniques that can cause them to relax. And this method can help reduce pain to a great extent. Acupuncture can be used to treat much chronic pain, including pain associated with the temporomandibular joint syndrome. This method requires the insertion of thin needles several times in specific locations of the body. Medication for TMJ syndrome include:

  • Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs, sometimes over the counter pain relievers are not helpful, doctors then prescribe more vital medicines such as ibuprofen
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Muscle relaxants

Is there any self-treatment for TMJ syndrome?

Non-drug treatments such as oral splints or mouth guards, counselling and physical therapy are also useful in treating TMJ disorder. Self-treatment of TMJ syndrome can include:

  • Application of cold or ice pads to the area of the joint
  • Massaging of the jaw
  • Eating soft foods
  • Exercise is also recommended for stretching and strengthening the jaw muscles. However, avoid excessive jaw movement.
  • Usage of sedative essential oils like lavender, chamomile, and sweet marjoram
  • Occlusal devices such as oral splashes or mouth guards can help people with TMJ pain. It involves inserting a soft or firm tool over the teeth to treat pain. 
  • A person suffering from TMJ syndrome can also seek a counsellor's help to understand how the pain may escalate, and effective measures can be taken to avoid such a situation.

TMJ syndrome: Here are some risk factors related to it 

Some risk factors of TMJ syndrome include:

  • Poor posture in the neck or upper back muscles which lead to neck strain and abnormalities of jaw muscle function
  • Stress increases muscle tension and jaw clenching
  • Patient with other chronic inflammatory arthritis are at an increased risk
  • People who have a genetic predisposition to increased stress responses and pain sensitivity may be more susceptible.
side effects of TMJ Syndrome

How to manage the side effects of TMJ Syndrome?

NSAIDs' common side effects are abdominal pain and cramps, stomach ulcers, dizziness, headaches, allergic reactions, and may result in a tendency to bleed more. Some side effects of ibuprofen include diarrhoea, constipation, rash, high blood pressure, retention of body fluids and salts, nausea and indigestion. Orthoscopic surgery may increase the risk of infection and blood clots. People taking corticosteroids injections can cause pain and inflammation. One can protect themselves from TMJ syndrome's side effects through a soft diet, resting the jaw, and avoiding extreme jaw movements.

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How can one prevent TMJ syndrome?

Ways to prevent TMJ syndrome include:

  • Eating soft foods
  • Avoiding chewing gum
  • Practising stress reduction and relaxation techniques
  • Using proper safety equipment to avoid dislocations while working, participating in sports or exercising and jaw fractures.

TMJ syndrome: Points to remember 

  • Patients with TMJ syndrome must rest their jaw regularly by eating soft food, they should consider getting treatment for nighttime tooth-grinding or jaw clenching, and above all, one should always consult a doctor when there is severe pain faced around the jaw.
  • There are some treatment guidelines that you can follow to reduce the symptoms of TMJ disorders. You should avoid overusing the jaw muscles. You should also eat soft food and always cut the food into small pieces before eating. Chewing food should be avoided so as not to aggravate the situation.

FAQs related to TMJ syndrome

  • What is the connection between diabetes and TMJ syndrome? When a patient reports inflammation of the TMJ joint, in addition to arthritis, periodontal diseases and diabetes may also be other risk factors. Diabetes is an inflammatory response which can make the impact of gum disease much stronger.
  • TMJ Syndrome: How long does it take to recover? It takes a few days to a few weeks for the muscles to relax to relieve the temporary resting joints syndrome. Physiotherapy and counselling take some time to offer favourable results. Pain relievers and anti-inflammatories usually provide relief within a short time. A person experiencing arthritis will need to avoid at least 24 hours of stressful activities. Other surgical procedures also have to give the person a few weeks to recover from its effects.
FAQs related to TMJ syndrome
  • Do medications cause fatal TMJ syndrome? While medications help ease TMJ syndrome's pain, surgery may be the most efficient treatment for restricted movement and pain in more extreme cases. Other surgical interventions such as arthrocentesis, injections, modified condylotomy, open-joint surgery and TMJ arthroscopy are included. It has been observed that when injected into the jaw muscles, botulinum toxin type an infusion can help a person relieve pain associated with TMJ disorders. Arthroscopic surgery can help treat a variety of TMJ disorders. Another procedure, modified condylotomy, treats TMJ disorder indirectly by mandating conduct. Open-joint surgery is usually performed when the TMJ disorder in the jaw joint is caused by some structural problem and is necessary to repair or replace the joint.
  • How does it feel to be living with TMJ syndrome? When a person lives with TMJ syndrome, there are continuous pain or tender episodes in the TMJ joint or around the ear. There is discomfort while chewing, and there is the locking of the joint in either open or closed position.

(With inputs from Dr Subhash Jangid, Director and Unit Head, Fortis bone and joint institute, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram)

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