One of the most misdiagnosed pain could be the TMJ pain (Temperomandibular Joint Pain). Often patients with this pain get treated for migraine, spondilitis muscle spasm or ENT issues- since the disorder presents similar symptoms.What is TMJ pain?
Temperomandibular joint is the hinge joint of the upper and lower jaw-positioned immediately in front of each ear. It allows the movement of your lower jaw in various directions during chewing, talking, yawning etc. Pain associated with joint and related muscles is known as temperomandibular disorder or TMD (many a times referred to as TMJ pain).It is often severe, may be temporary or may carry on for several years ,affecting one or both joints, commonly encountered among age groups between 20 and 40.What causes the pain?
The pain could be due to a combination of arthritis or jaw injury or could be due to change in position of jaw because of grinding and clenching of teeth. Sometimes related to muscle stiffness due to a stressful lifestyle, TMD can simply be reversed by adapting an altered lifestyle.What are the symptoms of TMJ pain?
Common symptoms include:
- Tenderness re soreness in face muscles, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear while function (chewing, yawning etc)
- Lower jaw may get "stuck" or "locked" in the open position
- The joint makes clicking, popping, or grating sounds on movement. This may or may not be painful.
- A tired feeling in your face or muscle fatigue while eating regular meals
- Swelling of the aching muscle,
- Heaviness of head on waking in the morning, neck aches and shoulder pain.
- Dizzness, ringing sound in ears, earaches.
- Noticeable change in general neck posture
How can dentist identify a potential TMJ patient?
A dentist can anticipate a potential case of future TMJ pain problem by some signs that the teeth present with. Wear facets, generalized sensitivity, sharpness of teeth edges, chipping of front teeth and developing gaps between teeth are warning signals to a future TMJ related problem (if the other symptoms have not set in as yet)
How is TMJ pain treated?
Preliminary examination, specific Xrays like MRI or CT scans are required. Sleep test may also be recommended to understand the muscle activity and its relaxed position. When the diagnosis is established, the patient is asked to use a custom made bite plate to relax the muscles around the joint.
TENS stimulation (nerve stimulation done with an electronic device) also helps relax the muscles.
Active treatment can range from most conservative occlusal adjustments to more aggressive restoration work combined with tooth repositioning by an expert Orthodontist. Generally such patients are in requirement of full mouth rehabilitations with various speciality dentists working under one roof to establish a more comfortable position for their musculature and joint. In severe cases, surgery is advised.