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What are the Different TMJ Treatment Options?

Lainie Petersen
By Lainie Petersen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Temporomandibular joint syndrome, also known as TMJ, is a painful jaw condition. Many sufferers actively seek out treatment to help alleviate their suffering. Fortunately, most effective TMJ treatment options are non-invasive, inexpensive, and can be performed by a TMJ patient at home. These treatments include certain lifestyle changes, such as temporarily switching to soft food; paying attention to how one chews, sleeps and yawns; and the use of over-the-counter pain relievers and ice packs to curb pain. Doctors might also prescribe a mouth guard or splint to be worn at night. If these TMJ treatment options don't work, doctors might attempt irrigating the temporomandibular joint or performing one of several types of TMJ surgery.

The first line of TMJ treatment options is simple and non-invasive. Many medical experts believe that if the jaw is not damaged or malformed, TMJ is often then the result of several different factors, including lifestyle. If a patient complains of TMJ, a doctor or dentist may begin the patient on a program of self-care. This program can include teaching the patient to alleviate stress and pressure on the jaw by refraining from chewing gum, going on a soft diet for a while, stretching exercises and stress-management training. Patients are often advised to use cold or warm compresses on the jaw, depending on its condition, as well as mild painkillers to alleviate pain.

When basic TMJ treatment options don't work, a doctor may prescribe a jaw splint or mouth guard that can rest the jaw or prevent tooth grinding. Ultrasound treatment is sometimes prescribed, as is physical therapy. If these treatments prove insufficient, a doctor may recommend more invasive measures, such as arthrocentesis, a process in which a doctor irrigates the temporomandibular joint via injection. Old fluid is washed out, and many patients experience immediate, though perhaps not complete, relief.

Surgery remains an option, but because it is risky and because other TMJ treatment options are less invasive and often effective, it is usually only used as a last resort measure. As with all surgeries, there are risks of infection or problems with healing. In particular, damage to the ear or facial nerves is possible, though infrequent. These surgeries can include the repositioning or outright removal of the joint disc, or the surgeon may make adjustments to the joint socket. In severe cases of jaw damage, a TMJ patient might have to undergo a temporomandibular joint replacement.

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