My Jaw Hurts. Is It TMJ and Should I See an Oral Surgeon?

jaw pain

Do you wake up with a throbbing jaw, experience clicking or popping sounds when you open your mouth, or find it challenging to chew your food? If so, you might be suffering from a condition known as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.

TMJ Disorder Symptoms

The temporomandibular joint is a complex joint that connects your jaw to your skull. TMJ disorders are often characterized by various uncomfortable symptoms, such as:

  1. Jaw pain: Those with TMJ may suffer from jaw pain, usually located close to the ear.
  2. Popping or clicking sounds: Many individuals with TMJ disorder experience a clicking or popping sound when they open or close their mouths.
  3. Difficulty chewing: TMJ disorder can make it difficult to chew your food properly. You may experience pain while chewing, and some people even avoid certain foods due to the discomfort.
  4. Facial pain: Pain in the cheeks and temples may be an indication of a TMJ issue.
  5. Headaches: Chronic headaches, often mistaken for tension or migraine headaches, can be linked to TMJ disorder.
  6. Earaches: TMJ disorder can cause pain or a feeling of fullness in the ears, sometimes leading individuals to believe they have an ear infection.
  7. Tinnitus: Some people with TMJ disorder report ringing in their ears.

When To See an Oral Surgeon

Here are some situations in which you should consider consulting an oral surgeon for a diagnosis:

  1. Severe pain: If your TMJ pain is severe and persistent, it’s time to consult an oral surgeon for a comprehensive evaluation.
  2. Limited jaw movement: If your jaw regularly gets locked or has a limited range of motion, it can significantly impact your daily life, making oral surgery a viable option.
  3. Structural issues: Some TMJ disorders are related to structural abnormalities in the jaw or joint.

Treatment Options for Pain Relief

Once your TMJ disorder is diagnosed, your oral surgeon will discuss various treatment options to alleviate your symptoms. The specific treatment plan will depend on the severity of your condition, but here are some common approaches:

  1. Self-care: For mild cases of TMJ disorder, self-care measures like eating soft foods, applying heat or ice packs to the affected area, and practicing relaxation techniques to reduce jaw tension can help relieve symptoms.
  2. Medications: Pain and inflammation can be treated with over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and benzodiazepines.
  3. Physical therapy: In some cases, physical therapy may be recommended to improve jaw function and reduce pain.
  4. Oral appliances: By repositioning the jaw and taking pressure off the joint, an oral splint or mouth guard can help alleviate discomfort.
  5. Injections: In severe cases, corticosteroids or botulinum toxin (Botox) injections may be considered to alleviate pain and muscle tension.

TMJ Disorder and Oral Surgery: Types, Risks, and Recovery

Regarding oral surgery for TMJ disorders, several options are available, depending on the specific diagnosis and the patient’s needs. Some common types of TMJ surgery include:

  1. Arthrocentesis: This minimally invasive procedure involves irrigating the joint space to remove debris and reduce inflammation — it is often performed as an outpatient procedure and usually has a short recovery time.
  2. Arthroscopy: In arthroscopic surgery, a small camera and surgical instruments are used to directly access and treat the joint. This approach allows for precise treatment and smaller incisions.
  3. Open-joint surgery: In severe cases, open-joint surgery may be necessary to address structural issues or joint reconstruction. This procedure is more invasive and may have a longer recovery period.

Like any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with TMJ surgery, including infection, bleeding, and nerve injury. However, the benefits can outweigh these risks, especially for those who have exhausted non-surgical treatment options.

Recovery time can vary depending on the type of surgery performed and the individual’s healing process. Following post-operative care instructions and attending follow-up appointments is crucial to successful recovery.

The Bottom Line

If you’re experiencing jaw pain, clicking, limited jaw movement, or other TMJ disorder symptoms, it’s vital to seek professional help for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. While many cases can be managed with conservative treatments, an oral surgeon can provide advanced options for those with severe or complex TMJ disorders, ensuring a better quality of life and relief from the discomfort and pain associated with this condition. One such trusted source for TMJ disorder treatment is Green Valley Oral Surgery. We offer a range of solutions to alleviate TMJ-related pain and discomfort. Contact the experts at Green Valley Oral Surgery today and take the first step in alleviating pain from TMJ.