What is TMJ pain?
The joint in your jaw is know as the Temporo-Mandibular Joint (TMJ). If the muscles for chewing are overworked they become tired and less efficient, leading to stresses on the joint capsule and disc. This overworking can be due to clenching and grinding from stress, habit, grinding in your sleep, or from the teeth not closing together evenly due to abnormal positioning or shape. As the muscles work they build-up waste products. If not allowed to rest, this build-up can lead to pain and cramping. Tired muscles also work less efficiently so putting more stress on the disc, The disc may stop moving smoothly and you may hear it click in and out of place when you open and close your mouth. If the disc stays out of its normal position the jaw joint will ride on the tendon or muscle rather than the disc which leads to further pain, locking, and inflammation Arthritis can also affect the function of your jaw joint.
What can be done?
Your dentist can assess how severe the problem is. Regardless of severity there are a few simple measures to reduce pain. Treatment is similar to other joint injuries like a sprained ankle.
- Soft diet
- Avoid yawning or clenching
- Anti-inflammatories- Check with your GP or chemist as some anti-inflammatories can affect other medications or cause stomach problems. Ibuprofen (Nurofen) is a great help for inflammation taken 6 to 8 hourly over a short period (up to a week or two). Voltaren is often used by sufferers of arthritis and may give more prolonged effect.
- Heat packs- This helps the blood flow remove the muscle waste products. Microwavable heat bags are excellent or just a tea towel soaked in boiling water and wrapped in a dry towel to allow the steam to penetrate.
Physiotherapist- How they can Help
The Headache, Neck and Jaw Clinic in Nundah is one of only two physiotherapists in Brisbane that specialize in jaw joints. Many patients have reported back to us with excellent long term results. Please visit https://www.theheadacheneckandjawclinic.com.au or contact the clinic on (07) 38626238
Where dental bite problems are suspected to be contributing to joint damage your dentist can make a dental splint. This is a plastic appliance worn in the mouth to separate the teeth. It is worn overnight or at times of high stress (e.g. clenching at the gym or when working on a computer). This takes the strain off the disc and muscles and allows any bite problems to be examined. Patients with severe chronic jaw pain where permanent damage is suspected can be difficult to successfully treat and a specialist may be recommended.