TMJ can be disruptive and painful. While 75% of the population has TMD symptoms and currently 1 out 12 Americans are having TMD issues, it is estimated that fewer than 5% of people with TMJ disorders, also called TMD, will require surgery to treat the condition. That means that even if you have significant pain from TMJ, you are likely to find relief with non-surgical treatments.
So, what is the best treatment for TMJ? The short answer is that it’s the treatment that works best. Keep in mind that TMJ treatment may involve a combination of therapies, including wearing a nightguard. Read on to learn about the different types of non-surgical treatment for TMJ.
Nonsurgical Treatments Available for TMJ
Symptoms of TMJ are estimated to affect tens of millions of people in the U.S. each year. In fact, it’s been cited as the second most common type of musculoskeletal pain. However, TMJ is highly treatable, if you consult a dentist who specializes in TMJ treatment. When you consult a TMJ specialist, they may recommend one of several treatments including:
Stress causes many people to begin clenching or grinding their teeth, either when awake or when sleeping. Clenching and grinding cause excessive wear and tear on the teeth. It also causes strain on the temporomandibular joint. This strain and pressure on the joint often manifest in pain in the jaw, which may extend up the face, or down the neck. Although stress does not cause TMJ, symptoms of stress such as grinding and clenching can cause pain in the jaw joint.
When you seek treatment for TMJ symptoms, don’t be surprised if your dentist asks about your current stress or anxiety level. It is a common cause of new-onset pain in the TMJ. Your dentist may recommend that you consider adding a meditation practice, or other relaxation techniques, that can help reduce stress.
Your dentist may also suggest that you temporarily switch to a diet of softer foods if you’ve recently developed TMJ disorder symptoms. This may be recommended to give your jaw joint a break for a few days, which can help decrease inflammation.
Cold Laser: Multiwave Locked System (MLS)
MLS Cold laser therapy is a revolutionary, non-invasive treatment for pain caused by TMJ. Using light wavelengths to boost cellular energy, while blocking pain sources, MLS cold laser therapy also helps to increase circulation. MLS cold laser therapy is completely painless. It does not require any recovery time or produce side effects. MLS Cold laser therapy is FDA-cleared for the treatment of acute and chronic pain, including pain from TMJ.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) uses electrical pulses to relax muscles in the face and jaw. TENS is a form of physical therapy that is also commonly used to treat sports injuries, and musculoskeletal conditions including arthritis. It is non-invasive and does not cause side effects, or require any downtime for recovery. It is especially effective in treating tension headaches caused by TMJ disorder.
A neuromuscular orthotic can successfully and nonsurgically treat painful symptoms of TMJ for some patients. This clear, custom-made device is worn on the lower teeth and works by gradually shifting the jaw and muscles into proper alignment to alleviate symptoms of TMJ. Similar to splint therapy, a neuromuscular orthotic can also help reduce strain on the neck, shoulders, and back caused by a misalignment in the jaw.
Arthritis does not discriminate when it comes to which joints it chooses to attack, so the TMJ is vulnerable to inflammation and irritation caused by arthritis. If your TMJ specialist suspects that arthritic inflammation is to blame for the pain in your jaw, they may recommend anti-inflammatory medications, along with icing the jaw to reduce swelling in the joint.
Nightguards (Splint Therapy)
Nightguards are the single most effective treatment for pain in the jaw and the face caused by teeth grinding and clenching. Custom-made to fit your mouth perfectly, nightguards (known as splint therapy) help alleviate the pressure on the joint, which reduces pain in the jaw. Moreover, nightguards can help relieve pain in the face, caused by muscle tension.
Because TMJ may be caused by a misaligned bite, orthodontic treatment with Invisalign is yet another potential treatment for TMJ. If your dentist finds that an overbite, underbite, crossbite, or open bite is to blame for symptoms of TMJ disorder, they may recommend you begin orthodontic treatment.
Get Relief From TMJ Disorder in the Bay Area
Dr. Chris Chui specializes in the treatment of TMJ disorders. In addition to his practice at San Francisco Dental Wellness, he is also the clinical director at the San Francisco VA medical center, where he has provided relief to countless veterans suffering from complex TMJ disorders. To book an appointment with the TMJ specialists at San Francisco Dental Wellness, call 415-781-1944, or book your appointment now.