Temporomandibular joint disorders or TMD have a variety of treatment options available, depending on the cause and severity of the condition. Dentists who specialize in TMD can recommend the appropriate steps to take to treat, reduce, or prevent these issues.
Treatment options include three main categories. Medications, therapies, and various levels of surgery are all options that may be considered.
Medications can be used to treat jaw problems. They can be used alone or in tandem with other treatment options. Pain relievers are the first type of medication that can be used to treat pain associated with TMD. Usually, physicians and dentists recommend over the counter pain medications, and step up to prescribing stronger and more effective pain medications. Pain medications only serve to treat the symptom of pain, however, and do not fix the underlying cause of the TMD, if such a cause is known. Trycyclic antidepressants can also be prescribed for pain relief for jaw pain. Muscle relaxants are another type of medication that can be used to treat jaw problems. They are usually only used for a few days or weeks to help relieve pain, particularly pain originating in the muscles of the jaw. For those individuals who are suffering from jaw pain that is caused or aggravated by night-time teeth clenching or grinding, sedatives such as clonazepam may be used to help ameliorate the problem.
Non-medication based treatment for TMD include a wide variety of treatments. Bite guards, also known as oral splints are usually made of heat formed acrylic resin. Physical therapy is another treatment option available for people with jaw pain. Included in this category is the use of moist heat and ice, ultrasound, and exercises designed to stretch and strengthen the muscles of the jaw. Counseling is another treatment option. Educating a jaw pain sufferer can help them identify the sets of behaviors, if behaviors are the cause, that are the root of the jaw problem. These behaviors can include grinding the teeth, clenching the teeth, nail biting, leaning on ones chin, and others.
Should medications or treatments alone or together not be effective, other options are available, and can be performed under sedation dentistry. Arthrocentesis is a method by which the joint is irrigated through needles, to remove debris and inflammatory fluid. Corticosteroid injections can be used to reduce inflammation. Less frequently, Botox is used to forcibly relax the jaw muscles to relieve pain and muscle contractions. Finally, if no other options serve to relieve the pain and difficulty associated with the jaw pain, surgery is an option. This is usually reserved for very severe cases, where structural problems are the problem. Joint repair can be performed, or even replacement if necessary. These TMD surgeries should not be performed unless absolutely necessary.