As the joint that connects the jawbone to the skull, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) performs a variety of important functions. You use it every time you open your mouth to speak, yawn, chew, and swallow food. It is responsible for moving your mouth up and down and left and right. And since it is often exposed to repetitive movements, there’s always a high risk for wear and tear. With this, some people can develop disorder in this joint called temporomandibular joint disorder, or simply called TMJ.
Quick facts about TMJ
Patients of this disorder can experience mild to sharp pain in the jaw joint along with the surrounding area, which results in difficulty opening the mouth. Other problems that can be associated with TMJ include headaches, ear ache, neck pain, jaw pain, to name a few.
Bad oral habits such as jaw clenching and teeth grinding, trauma or injury to the jaw, wear and tear, and aging can all contribute to this condition. As with other joints in the body, it is also prone to arthritis.
But is there anything you can do to prevent and even treat TMJ permanently?
How can I permanently cure TMJ at home?
Fortunately, TMJ disorder is not irreversible. With proper care and treatment, you can cure it permanently.
In most cases (especially mild to moderate ones) you don’t need to seek professional help, as there are ways to manage the pain, and even make it go away. However, if the pain is stubborn and affects your day-to-day life, then you should definitely seek medical help.
Here are some things you can do to treat TMJ at home.
Lifestyle and Home Remedies
For starters, you need to stop bad oral habits such as teeth grinding and jaw clenching, or anything that puts too much pressure on your jaw joint. You can also avoid eating chewy and hard food, such as chewing gum, hard meat, and ice cubes. Unnecessary pressure and repetitive movement on the joint can result in damage due to overuse and wear and tear.
Hot and Cold Compress
First off, apply moist heat to the area – doctors often recommend moist heat to treat joint injury and joint pains. The same idea can be used in your jaw joint; moist heat or bottle with warm water inside wrapped in most cloth can be used to alleviate pain.
Moist heat can provide temporary relief from pain by promoting blood flow and increasing blood supply for muscle relaxation. It is also effective in relieving stiffness and rigidity to the affected area.
When using hot compress, make sure it is not too hot to avoid burning your face.
For cold compress, as with hot compress, doctors recommend cold compress to numb the affected area and reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling. Ice packs and cold compress are especially good for TMJ triggered by arthritis.
If you don’t have a cold compress or ice pack, you can wrap ice cubes in a clean cloth and apply it to the jaw. Avoid using cold compress for more than 15 minutes. You can alternate between 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off if you want.
Try Jaw Exercises
There are many types and ways to exercise the jaw and mouth, and they are pretty simple. You can talk to your doctor for the right exercise for you.
Here are a few examples of jaw exercises:
- Relaxed jaw – gently rest your tongue behind your upper front teeth, on top of your mouth. Relax your jaw and allow your teeth to come apart.
- Tongue up – touch the roof of your mouth using your tongue, open and close your mouth slowly.
- Resist closing of the mouth – using your thumb and index fingers, squeeze your chin gently. Try to close your mouth as you put gentle pressure on your chin. This will strengthen your chewing muscles.
- Resist the opening of the mouth – open your mouth slowly while placing one thumb underneath your chin. Push your chin gently for resistance. Hold this position for five seconds before closing your mouth slowly. Do it again multiple times.
- Chin tucks – make a double chin by tucking your chin to your chest. Keep your chest up and shoulders back. Hold the position for 3 to 5 seconds and repeat ten times.
If the pain worsens after doing jaw exercises, make an appointment to your doctor as soon as possible.
For unbearable pain, you can get quick relief from pain killers. There are lots of over-the-counter drugs for TMJ, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Your doctor may also prescribe you with muscle relaxers.
In many cases, TMJ disorder is triggered or caused by bruxism, or clenching of the jaw and grinding of the teeth. In this case, doctors may use custom-made splints fitted over the lower or upper teeth to provide cushion between the teeth and avoid bruxism. This will rest the jaw joint and allow it to heal.
In severe cases, dental surgery may be necessary to cure TMJ permanently. There are two common ways to address TMJ through surgery:
- TMJ Arthrocentesis or arthroscopy – This is an outpatient minimally invasive procedure with one week recovery time. The procedures involve proper positioning of the joint and doing other activities that would eliminate any underlying problems with the TMJ.
- In severe conditions, total joint replacement may be necessary. This of course, requires a hospital stay for several days. Recovery can last up to six weeks.
Another form of treatment is called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. This procedure involves the use of low-voltage electric shock to address the pain. Multiple modes are placed in the affected area and low-level electric currents pass through, stimulating the nerves to treat the pain.
Does TMJ ever go away?
Yes. For mild to moderate cases, TMJ usually goes away without treatment. Resting the jaw joint and doing home remedies and exercises can help in alleviating the pain.
However, to prevent any further issues, especially for people with recurring episodes of pain in their jaw joint, it is important to seek medical help.
How long does it take for TMJ to go away?
In most cases, TMJ disorder and its symptoms are usually self-limiting. If the jaw joint is rested, symptoms can disappear after a couple of weeks. Anti-inflammatory and pain medications can help provide quick relief.
What happens if TMJ is left untreated?
Without proper treatment, the condition can worsen and can lead to excruciating and debilitating pain that may require more thorough medical intervention. In many cases, untreated TMJ can lead to neck and shoulder pain, malnutrition, eating disorders, and even depression.When this happens, the condition becomes irreversible.