Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain is a common issue that many people experience. Here are some frequently asked questions about TMJ pain:

1. What is TMJ pain?

· TMJ pain refers to discomfort or pain in the temporomandibular joint, which connects the jawbone to the skull. The TM Joint is located just in front of your ear. Functional tasks like eating, chewing, talking, and yawning can be painful.

2. What causes TMJ pain?

· TMJ pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including jaw injury or trauma, teeth grinding (bruxism), arthritis, stress, muscle tension, or parafunctional habits like nail or cuticle biting, biting on your lip or the inside of your cheek, chewing on a pencil or toothpick, etc.

3. What are the symptoms of TMJ pain?

· Common symptoms include jaw pain or tenderness, difficulty chewing, clicking or popping sounds when opening the mouth, limited opening or excessive hypermobility with opening, headaches, facial pain, and certainly cervical spine pain can coexist.

4. How is TMJ pain diagnosed?

· Diagnosis often involves a thorough physical examination of the jaw, and cervical spine, dental and medical history review, a sleep and airway assessment and sometimes imaging tests like my favorite the Cone Beam Scan or MRI.

5. What are the treatment options for TMJ pain?

· Treatment may include self-care measures such as applying heat or ice packs and avoiding hard or chewy foods. I like the mantra if you can cut through your food with a fork, it is soft enough. Practicing relaxation techniques, and avoiding elective dental treatments during your healing is important, physical therapy and related conservative treatments, some over-the-counter medications or natural supplements may also be recommended, and the possibility of an oral appliance. These are just to name a few. The KEY MESSAGE IS MOST TMJ PATIENTS SHOULD RESPOND WELL TO GOOD CONSERVATIVE CARE, SURGERY SHOULD BE THE VERY LAST OPTION!

6. Can stress contribute to TMJ pain?

· Yes, stress and anxiety can contribute to TMJ pain by causing muscle tension in the jaw area. In addition, and unfortunately, some of the very medicines to help manage stress, anxiety, and depression can cause or contribute to increased TMJ muscle activation and lead to TMJ Pain. Please see my last blog on the side effects of various medications.

7. Is there a cure for TMJ pain?

· In MOST cases, TMJ pain can be managed effectively with conservative treatments as mentioned above. Severe cases, fractures, and cancer of course may require more advanced interventions or surgery.

8. Are there exercises to help with TMJ pain?

· Yes, certain jaw exercises and stretches may help improve the strength and flexibility of the jaw muscles. Postural correction exercises are crucial. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any exercise regimen.

9. How long does TMJ pain last?

· The duration of TMJ pain varies from person to person. In many cases, it is temporary and can be relieved with appropriate treatments. In many cases, it can take 6 to 12 months to achieve a positive, stable, and successful outcome.

If you are experiencing TMJ pain, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or a dentist for a proper diagnosis and guidance on the most appropriate treatment for your specific situation. Be sure to find professionals with specific credentials and training, as treating TMJ Pain or Temporomandibular disorders is not taught in most healthcare programs. One must go on for additional training and certifications to learn the necessary tools and skills to successfully evaluate and treat Temporomandibular Disorders, Orofacial Pain, and Craniofacial Pain.

Here’s to your Health and a Wonderful New Year!

Michael Karegeannes
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