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Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome

Intro

Occasional pain in the jaw joint or chewing muscles is common and may not be a cause for concern. See a doctor if your pain is severe or if it does not go away. Treatment for TMJ syndrome should begin when it is in early stages. The doctor can explain the functioning of the joints and how to avoid any action or habit (such as chewing gum) that might aggravate the joint or facial pain.

If your jaw is locked open or closed, go to a hospital's emergency department.

  • The open locked jaw is treated by sedating you to a comfortable level. Then the mandible is held with the thumbs while the lower jaw is pushed downward, forward, and backward.
  • The closed locked jaw is treated by sedating you until you are completely relaxed. Then the mandible is gently manipulated until the mouth opens.
Self-Care at Home

Many people, more women than men, have TMJ syndrome. However, the full TMJ disorder develops in only a few. Most of the symptoms disappear in two weeks because your jaw joint rests and recovers when you are unable to chew.

  • Antiinflammatory pain medications such as aspirin or acetaminophen(Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Aleve) may ease the pain of TMJ syndrome.
  • Eat a diet of soft foods.
  • Apply warm compresses on the area of pain. Home therapy includes mandible (lower jaw) movements, such as opening and closing the jaw from side to side. Try this after a warm compress is applied for 20 minutes. The lower jaw movements should be repeated three to five times a day, five minutes continuously each time, for about two to four weeks.

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Follow-up

Follow your doctor's specific instructions for taking any medication prescribed and for home care with compresses or gentle jaw exercise.

  • You may be instructed to follow up with a specialist such as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, a general dentist, or a pain specialist physician.
  • Dentists are often the first to diagnose TMJ syndrome. They are familiar with conservative treatments. Specially trained facial pain experts can be helpful in diagnosing and treating TMJ syndrome.
Prevention

If you tend to have occasional bouts with jaw pain, avoid chewing gum or biting on objects, such as pens or fingernails. Avoid eating hard or chewy food. When you yawn, support your lower jaw with your hand.

See your dentist if you grind your teeth at night or find yourself clenching your jaw. The dentist can make a splint for you.

Outlook

Most people do well with conservative therapy, such as resting the jaw or using a mouth splint. The success of treatment depends on how severe the symptoms are and how well you comply with treatment.

Only about 1% of patients require joint replacement surgery.

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