Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome - Medical Malpractice Lawyers
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Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome Overview
The temporomandibular joint or TMJ is the joint in the face just in front of the ears. There is one on either side of the face; it is associated with the action of jaw movement. TMJ syndrome has no known cause. It has, in fact, several different causes, including jaw injury and arthritis of the joint. There are multiple treatments and managements of the disorder.
There are numerous symptoms affiliated with getting TMJ disorder. The major TMJ disorder symptoms include the following:
- Aching around the ear
- Having an earache
- Having pain or tenderness of the jaw
- Having problem chewing or difficulty chewing
- Locking of the joint so you can’t open and close the jaw
- Having an aching facial pain
If you have a TMJ syndrome, you often will note a clicking sound or a grating sensation when opening or closing the mouth. These are signs for a need to be treated for TMJ disorder.
There are several causes behind getting temporomandibular joint disorder. The joint itself makes use of a sliding motion and a hinge action. There is cartilage that covers the bony parts and between them is a disk which acts as a shock absorber. This keeps the movement flawlessly smooth. The TMJ tends to get painful if the following are true:
- The joint erodes into itself
- The joint moves out of alignment
- The cartilage is injured by arthritis
- There is a blow or impact to the joint
In most cases, the cause of the various TMJ disorders is not clear.
The risk factors to getting TMJ disease include being between the ages of 20 and 40, and being female, although it can happen at any age.
Tests for TMJ disease include an exam which contains the following:
- A stethoscope evaluation of what happens when the jaw is opened and closed
- Checking the range of motion of the jaw
- The doctor pushing on the cheeks to check for areas of discomfort or pain
The doctor can order a CT scan or an MRI scan in order to check on the integrity of the joint and on the damage to soft tissue.
There are medical and surgical treatments to the management of TMJ syndrome. Sometimes the symptoms go completely away spontaneously. Other treatments include the following:
- Treatment with pain relievers, which can be over the counter medications or prescription pain relievers. Narcotics can be provided in the worst cases.
- Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, which have a reduction in pain as a side effect to the antidepressant part of their function.
- Muscle relaxants can be used for a few days or weeks in order to relieve the tightness in the muscles.
- Sedatives can be used, especially at night, to resolve the clenching of the teeth which can make the pain worse. An example of this is the benzodiazepine called Klonopin.
Non-medical treatments used for temporomandibular joint syndrome include the following:
- Bite guards are soft or firm devices that are inserted over the teeth with the idea that the bite guard prevents clenching of the teeth.
- Physical therapy, including the application of moist ice and heat, can be done along with the use of exercises used to stretch the jaw muscles and make them stronger.
- Education on the factors that cause TMJ disease as well as counseling to practice relaxing the muscles and avoiding those behaviors that worsen the disease can help some people.
Surgical methods are used as a last resort in order to make sure there is a physical change within the joint. Patients can have the following:
- An arthrocentesis. In this procedure, the doctor inserts a needle into the joint so that the fluid and joint debris can be removed along with the inflammatory byproducts.
- Injections can be done with corticosteroids to break the inflammation. Botulinum toxin or Botox, can be used to relax the muscle around the damaged joints.
- Surgery can be done to completely repair or replace the damaged joint. It is only done if the damage to the joint is severe.
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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here