I’ve Got TMJ Now What?
Most people with TMJ problems have relatively mild or periodic symptoms which may improve on their own within weeks or months with simple home therapy. Self-care practices, such as eating soft foods, applying ice or moist heat and avoiding extreme jaw movements (such as wide yawning, loud singing, and gum chewing) are helpful in easing symptoms.
According to the National Institutes of Health brochure on TMJ, it strongly recommends using the most conservative, reversible treatments possible. Conservative treatments do not invade the tissues of the face, jaw, or joint, or involve surgery. Reversible treatments do not cause permanent changes in the structure or position of the jaw or teeth. If TMJ issues become persistent and severe, moving toward aggressive treatments does not necessarily ensure improvement of the symptoms.
More research is needed that will lead to understanding of the condition and development of safe and effective TMJ treatments. As science learns more about the TMJ and its associated structures, many in the health care community are reassessing TMJ treatments and ways in which they were developed. Clearly, the various TMJ disorders are far more complex than previously believed.
Did you know… approximately one-third of the population experiences some jaw “clicking and popping,” but experiences no pain or restricted jaw movement? For this group of people, no treatment is necessary and this is not considered to be a TMJ problem.
Be Informed and Beware
The treating community remains in chaos and controversy about TMJ treatments. The advice we must still offer patients is – you may get better on treatments; you may be unaffected by treatments; you may even get better in spite of treatment, or you may get worse.
“There are a wide variety of potential treatments for TMJ, including self-management, physical therapy, medications, occlusal adjustments, intraoral appliances, and surgery. Evidence based clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of TMJs do not currently exist, despite the fact that treatment is common. Evidence about the safety and efficacy of these treatments is sparse; many of the research studies that have been conducted are insufficiently powered to produce solid conclusions, lack appropriate comparison or control groups, are missing standardized outcome measures, or focus on individual interventions without the context of holistic patient care.” National Academy of Medicine report on Temporomandibular Disorders: Priorities for Research and Care 2020.