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TMJ / TMD Treatment
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction can cause pain in and around your jaw. At The Holistic Healing Center, we can successfully treat your TMJ with non-surgical methods.
The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) and Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD)
The temporomandibular joint, often shortened to TMJ, is the joint that connects your jawbone to your skull. These joints act as sliding hinges to allow you to open and close your mouth and move your jaw from side to side, enabling you to talk, chew, and swallow, etc. You have two TMJ’s in total, one either side of your face, and pain or discomfort in these joints is referred to as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). This short animation helps to explain the location of the TMJ and why misalignment can lead to pain.
What Causes TMD?
Pain in the TMJ can be caused by a number of factors, including arthritis, trauma to the face, grinding your teeth, or misalignment in the jaw, all of which can all lead to erosion of the cartilage within the joint leading to pain when the joint moves. There are also certain factors and conditions that can increase a person’s chance of developing TMD, including:
- Sustaining a jaw injury
- Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
- Grinding their teeth
- Clenching their jaw
- Or suffering from a degenerative disease which affects the muscles around the TMJ
- Tongue Tie (anklyglossia)
- Mouth breathers
- Sleep Apnea
- Need for braces and or palate expander
- Neck Pain
Sadly, for many people with TMD, the root cause of their condition can be hard to find, but this doesn’t mean that their TMJ condition cannot be improved or treated with proper care.
The signs and symptoms of TMD
TMD can be temporary, or it can last many years and is most common in people between the ages of 20 and 40. Although the condition can affect people of both genders, more women than men tend to experience TMD over the course of their lifetime. The condition can affect one joint or both joints, so you may feel symptoms on one side of your face more than the other or on both sides of your face at the same time. Pain or discomfort in the jaw is the main symptom of TMD, but there are some other signs and symptoms to look out for including:
- An aching sensation in your ear or around your ear.
- Pain or discomfort in your face, neck, or shoulders when you speak, chew, or open your mouth wide.
- A clicking or popping noise when you open and close your mouth (this does not always have to be painful).
- Difficulty opening your mouth or a feeling that your jaw may be locked.
- Random pain when chewing which doesn’t necessarily affect every bite.
- Swelling on one or both sides of your face.
- Toothache towards the back of your mouth.
- A headache after an event when you have used your jaw a lot.
- Ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
- Trouble yawning
- Inability to take a big bite of an apple, ear of corn, or sandwich
As you can see, there are many signs and symptoms that could indicate that you are suffering from a temporomandibular joint disorder. You may experience one, or several, of these symptoms at any one time, or you may experience a different symptom altogether.
If you have experienced one or more of the above symptoms and think that you may have TMD, then it’s essential to schedule a consultation with your doctor or dentist who can confirm your diagnosis. Our doctors of physical therapy at Holistic Healing Center specialize in this condition and making an appointment right away is important. Physical therapists have direct access to patients, which means you do not need a script or referral to see one of our experts. They can diagnose and treat the condition right away.
During the consultation, your health practitioner will likely ask you some questions about your symptoms and will examine the area of your jaw to establish your range of motion, pain level, and symptoms.
Treating TMD and TMJ Discomfort
There are various treatment options available for TMD, including medications, physical therapies, and surgical options. Generally, surgery is always the very last resort, and most patients find that their TMJ disorder can be treated effectively with physical therapy alone. Arthrocentesis surgery is a “flushing of the joint”, and has not been proven to be very effective. Tight muscles around the joint do not typically get better with injections, surgery, or medications. Alignment of the jaw and stretching the tight muscles is crucial to resolving TMJ. Your physical therapist can show you how to manage your condition at home to supplement the in-office care.
Some of the non-surgical treatments that you could try include:
- Using occlusal appliances
Occlusal appliances such as oral splits or a mouthguard can be used to help correct the alignment of the jaw and to prevent patients who grind or clench their teeth from further damaging their teeth and jaw muscles.
- Jaw exercises
Like any other part of the body, the jaw is a complex construction of muscle, ligaments and bones, which can benefit from exercise and strengthening. Jaw exercises can help to increase the range of motion in the jaw as well as to stretch out tight muscles and to strengthen weak areas. A customized plan for you is important to ensure you do not worsen your condition by doing exercises improperly.
Counseling can help patients to better understand the behavioral factors that could be causing their TMD so that they can work to avoid them. Stress, tension and anxiety are a major part of the healing process. Ensuring you are coping well with life’s stressors is key to resolving TMD.
Ultrasound applies deep heat directly into the TMJ, which can help to provide patients with instant relief from soreness as well as helping them to relax their muscles and improve their jaw mobility. Physical therapists trained in ultrasound can apply this treatment if appropriate.
- Low-level laser therapy
Low-level laser therapy can help to reduce inflammation in the joints, relieve pain, improve mobility, and encourage new tissue growth to heal prior injuries.
Getting the Help You Need From Holistic Healing Center
Here at Holistic Healing Center, we can combine physical therapies with integrated medicine to provide you with the perfect non-surgical treatment plan for your TMD. Our team of multidisciplinary experts are all specialists in their fields and will work together to help you feel your best by combining their expertise. To find out more about what we do and how we can help to treat your TMJ disorder, contact us today on 732.252.6155 or request an appointment with us online. Our office is conveniently located in the Colts Neck Shopping Centre at 420 State Route 34, Suite 317, Colts Neck, NJ 07722. You can also text us or email us.
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