Lately, you have been noticing pain developing throughout your jaw each time you try to eat, speak, chew, or even smile. It is beginning to make a popping sound, and it hurts to just open or close your mouth. Choosing to avoid your symptoms, you assume it will get better, but with signs that point to TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder), you might be asking yourself, “Can TMJ go away on its own?” Read on to find out if it is true or if you should seek the help of a dental professional sooner rather than later.
What is TMJ?
On each side of your mouth are the temporomandibular joints. These are what connect your lower jaw to the base of your skull. Giving the range of motion to move your mouth, when these joints become inflamed as a result of trauma or teeth grinding (bruxism), you will begin to notice that your jaw is pained when trying to open and close your mouth.
When this happens, it is likely you will experience a variety of symptoms, including:
- Difficulty eating, chewing, speaking, yawning, smiling
- Excessive wear and tear on your teeth due to a misalignment
- Frequent headaches
- Soreness in your facial muscles
- Soreness in your neck and shoulders
- Locking or popping jaw
Should you choose to see a dental professional about the problem, the most common diagnoses would be temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).
Can It Improve on Its Own?
There is much debate as to whether TMJ can go away on its own. While some dentists and researchers claim that TMD is “self-limiting,” it can, in fact, improve if the jaw joints have only been sprained. A study performed by two authors, GB Wexler and MW McKinney, reported that 274 patients who received TMJ Therapy experienced great improvement versus those who received no treatment at all.
Another study examined 53 individuals who expressed having TMJ pain-related symptoms. All agreed not to be treated. Re-evaluating these people after one year and again after 15 years, MRI’s showed that none of the 53 patients improved. In fact, nearly 10% actually saw worsening problems.
There is a consensus among most dental professionals that when a patient comes in complaining of jaw pain, x-rays are taken and reviewed to determine if the joints look normal. If the range of motion remains unphased, the suggestion is to not pursue treatment but to see if the symptoms disappear or lessen and be rechecked in one month. If at that time the symptoms worsen or have not improved, treatment options will be discussed.
What Are the Forms of Treatment?
The most common form of treatment for TMJ disorder is an occlusal splint or mouthguard. This small, compact, oral device is used to relax the jaw joints and prevent your teeth from coming into contact with each other. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your dentist might suggest that you wear your splint 24 hours a day.
Do not continue to live with the pain of TMJ. Make an appointment to talk to your dentist about your symptoms and find out whether you should wait or seek treatment options immediately.
About the Author
Dr. John Ludu achieved his Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry before going on to earn his doctorate at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. Undergoing various specialty education courses, he has more than two and a half decades of dentistry experience. Dr. Ludu and the dental experts at Devoted Family Dental want to help you find relief from chronic jaw pain, which is why we are pleased to offer TMJ Therapy to patients in need of a solution. To learn how we can help you, contact us at (623) 444-6222.