f you have been having trouble with TMJ pain and discomfort, then it is time to seek treatment for TMJ. If you have heard that TMJ requires surgery, then you might be interested to know that there are plenty of non-surgical treatments for TMJ that can be highly successful in many cases.
Before looking at those non-surgical TMJ treatments, and why you may choose them, let’s start at the beginning.
What is TMJ
TMJ stands for “temporomandibular joint,” the main joint that attaches your jaw to your skull. The term TMJ has become a term to designate TMJ disorder, which is a painful condition in which the temporomandibular joint is overworked or misaligned. Those who have TMJ (the disorder) might experience:
- Mouth pain
- Neck pain
- Facial pain (particularly near the ear)
- Ear pain
- Or even chronic congestion
Many seek treatment because their TMJ causes popping when they yawn or chew. TMJ can also cause numbness in the arms, hands, and fingers, along with clicking, popping, or locking of the jaw.
If you are experiencing any of these conditions, you may want to discuss treatment for TMJ with your dentist or doctor.
What if you do not treat your TMJ?
According to Healthline, “TMJ isn’t life-threatening, but if it’s not treated, it can cause pretty persistent discomfort and tension in and around your jaw. It’s also possible that the affected joints could become inflamed, and there may even be damage to your teeth.” Many patients describe a substantial improvement to their quality of life before and after TMJ treatment.
How is TMJ treated?
If there’s an upside to TMJ, it’s that treatment options exist that can improve your situation relatively quickly. Healthline explains: “TMJ disorders can be successfully treated in many people with at-home remedies, such as changing posture or reducing stress.” For others, TMJ treatment may include medication, physical therapy, or oral devices may be needed.
And, for a few, TMJ treatment will require surgery. The Mayo Clinic says, “Surgery is typically a last resort after conservative measures have failed, but some people with TMJ disorders may benefit from surgical treatments.”
Most importantly, though, The Mayo Clinic also reiterates that “In most cases, the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders is temporary and can be relieved with self-managed care or nonsurgical treatments.”
What are some examples of non-surgical TMJ treatments?
The first step for non-surgical TMJ treatments is to relieve the pain and discomfort that the patient is feeling. Here are a few things that your provider may try:
- Working to relax the muscles: often a dentist or doctor will use medical instruments like TENs machines and Electromyography sensors to relax the muscles in the head and neck.
- A dental splint: your provider may recommend a TMJ treatment like a dental splint or a mouthguard. The Mayo Clinic says, “Often, people with jaw pain will benefit from wearing a soft or firm device inserted over their teeth, but the reasons why these devices are beneficial are not well-understood.”
- Physical Therapy: frequently, your provider will encourage physical therapy for TMJ treatment that can be done at home, like jaw stretching or strengthening exercises.
In addition to these non-surgical TMJ treatments, your provider may suggest medication. Healthline explains, “If you find that your TMJ is not eased by using home treatments, some medications — both over-the-counter and prescribed by a doctor — may provide more relief. Some of these medications include:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- muscle relaxers
- local anesthetics
Your doctor will help you decide which medication is best for you, based on your personal condition and health history.”
In addition to all of these treatments for TMJ, your doctor may also recommend various therapies. We mentioned physical therapy for TMJ above, but your provider may also recommend heat or cold therapy, where you will “Apply an ice pack to the side of your face and temple area for about 10 minutes for acute pain. Do a few simple stretching exercises for your jaw (as instructed by your healthcare provider). After exercising, apply a warm towel or washcloth to the side of your face for about five minutes. Do this a few times each day” (Cleveland Clinic). Alternatively, there are non-surgical treatments for TMJ that include everything from acupuncture to talk therapy.
All of this means that if you have TMJ you may not require surgery. There are a number of non-surgical treatments for TMJ that you and your provider may be able to try first!
Want to learn more about TMJ treatment options? Check out our services here.