TMJ is the abbreviation for Temporomandibular Joint, and plagues many men and women worldwide. It is caused by a variety of issues, including:
• Disease (arthritis, for instance)
• Wear due to aging
• Grinding and clenching
• Chewing on things (not food)
• Poor alignment of teeth
Some of these situations are habits a person has formed. A child starts biting pencils, and continues to gnaw on things as she gets older. This biting might become grinding during slumber, or have begun from that grinding and progressed to daytime gnawing. Clenching is also a habit, even if it is related to mental health issues such as anxiety or problems with anger. It might be a coping mechanism in response to pain elsewhere in the body.
The result is pain of many kinds, including headaches. Taking analgesics can be helpful for relieving minor pain in the early stages of TMJ; however, this is simply a “band-aid” and has no long term impact on the cause of discomfort. Anti-inflammatory drugs sold over the counter are a more effective TMJ treatment as they reduce swelling in the joint.
Some clients will get injections deep into the joint, such as lidocaine or Botox. Lidocaine is recognizable as a topical anesthetic rubbed onto the skin before having an IV. Botox causes the joint to relax. Both forms of TMJ treatments are only effective for a few months and are not for the faint of heart.
Far less frightening and painful than a long needle, bite guards have also been proven effective. They stop the user from putting pressure on the TMJ. The user is not always aware she is grinding, especially at night, so a bite guard is a useful night time aid.
If dental alignment is the culprit, speak with Dr. Poss about getting braces. It is not too late, even if the teen years have passed you by. Many adults wear braces to correct a cross bite which were not addressed during childhood. This is a long term solution to an ongoing problem and could prevent headaches from becoming unbearable.
When it comes to TMJ treatment, it pays to think outside of the box. The problem rarely comes out of the blue, unless you are affected by arthritis or a disease that strikes joints all over your body. With some creative consideration, your headaches could be gone in just a few months even if you have suffered with TMJ for years.
Don’t forget that Dr. Poss has extensive experience treating TMJ and persistent headaches.