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Posts for tag: tmj disorders

By E. Thomas Elstner Jr., DMD
May 07, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tmj disorders  
AlthoughItsOftenaLongRoadYouCanFindLastingReliefFromTMD

If you've been diagnosed with a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), you're likely no stranger to pain and dysfunction. And not just with your jaw joints: In a survey of approximately 1,500 patients, nearly two-thirds of them also reported at least three or more painful conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers continue to gather evidence of possible connections between TMD and other physical conditions. Hopefully, this research will lead to better treatments for all of them, including TMD. But until then, patients must continue to rely on established methods for reducing TMD's severity.

Although new treatments like Botox injections have been proposed and tried in recent years, the most effective still seem to be long-standing techniques that are conservative and non-invasive in nature. On the other hand, TMD surgical procedures developed in recent years have yet to deliver on their promise: In one survey, only 6% of surgery patients gained significant relief from TMD symptoms, while nearly half reported feeling worse.

It seems the best advice, should you receive a definitive diagnosis of TMD, is to start with the more conservative measures. These treatments tend to be orthopedic in nature, generally treating TMD as a joint problem. Of these, the ones most people have found effective involve thermal therapies like hot or cold compresses against the jaw, or hot baths.

Medications like muscle relaxers or pain relievers can also play a role in reducing TMD discomfort and dysfunction. And, many patients gain benefit from physical therapy massage and exercises that target the jaw muscles. Switching to softer foods with smaller bites can help patients avoid over-stressing the jaw joints while chewing.

It's also important to understand that there is no "one-size-fits-all" treatment protocol: Individual patients and their doctors may need to experiment with different therapies to find the right combination that offers the most relief. Although this can take time, it can be well worth it if the eventual combination brings long-term relief.

From this standpoint, patients should avoid surgical options unless all other methods have been tried and still have not yielded significant relief. For most patients, however, conservative TMD treatment and lifestyle or diet changes will work—with enough time and patience.

If you would like more information on TMD, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Chronic Jaw Pain and Associated Conditions.”

By E. Thomas Elstner Jr., DMD
June 01, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tmj disorders  
WhatWeCanLearnFromThoseWithChronicJawPainandDiscomfort

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is an umbrella term for a number of chronic jaw problems. These conditions cause recurring pain for 10 to 30 million Americans, especially women of childbearing age.

But even after decades of treatment and research, a full understanding of TMD's underlying causes eludes us. That doesn't mean, however, that we haven't made progress—we have indeed amassed a good deal of knowledge and experience with TMD and how best to treat it.

A recent survey of over a thousand TMD patients helps highlight the current state of affairs about what we know regarding these disorders, and where the future may lie in treatment advances. Here are a few important findings gleaned from that survey.

Possible causes. When asked what they thought triggered their TMD episodes, the top answers from respondents were trauma, stress and teeth clenching habits. This fits in with the consensus among experts, who also include genetic disposition and environmental factors. Most believe that although we haven't pinpointed exact causes, we are over the target.

Links to other disorders. Two-thirds of survey respondents also reported suffering from three or more other pain-related conditions, including fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and chronic headaches. These responses seem to point to possible links between TMD and other pain-related disorders. If this is so, it could spur developments in better diagnostic methods and treatment.

The case against surgery. Surgical procedures have been used in recent years to treat TMD. But in the survey, of those who have undergone surgery only one-third reported any significant relief. In fact, 46% considered themselves worse off. Most providers still recommend a physical joint therapy approach first for TMD: moist heat or ice, massage and exercises and medications to control muscle spasms and pain.

These findings underscore one other important factor—there is no “one size fits all” approach to TMD management. As an individual patient, a custom-developed action plan of therapy, medication, and lifestyle and diet practices is the best way currently to reduce the effects of TMD on your life.

If you would like more information on TMD management and treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Chronic Jaw Pain and Associated Conditions.”