TMJ is an umbrella term covering pain and dysfunction of the muscles that move the jaw and the parts of the joints which connect the mandible (jaw bone) to the skull. The most important feature is pain, followed by restricted mandibular movement, and noises during jaw movement, like clicking or grinding. It is also associated with referred conditions affecting the Eustachian tubes of the ear, perhaps some dizziness and certain types of headaches.
Dentistry has a complex approach to TMJ conditions since many misaligned joints are the result of poor alignment of the molar teeth. Blunt trauma of course, as in a fall or fist fight, can damage the TMJ all at once Vs the gradual influences of poor teeth alignment. Therefore, depending on the presentation of the TMJ condition an orthodontic approach may be the better option while a traumatic onset may respond best to manual manipulation and a set of exercises to restore the dysfunctions that have resulted from the body’s mal-adaptation to an incomplete healing of the injury; something well-managed by a certain number of Chiropractors.
Ice as First Aid may be of immediate temporary help to reduce the pain that comes from any swelling and inflammation due to the misalignment of the joint. A 20 minute application twice per day for a week or two may relieve some of the pain until the TMJ can be properly assessed.
As a seasoned Doctor of Chiropractic, when a patient presents them self with a TMJ dysfunction, a manual and visual evaluation tells part of the story; X-rays are marginally helpful compared to a functional assessment of the jaw parts and deviated motions (or lack of motion). If the findings reveal certain misalignment patterns, a manual adjustment can be promptly administered, then repeated after a couple days of home use of ice and specific exercises.
Truth is that 50% of the TMJ dysfunctions I have seen have responded well to conservative specific manual correction I have administered, while 50% did not and a referral to a Ortthodontic TMJ specialist was made. The former is much more cost effective when a straight forward approach can work. It makes sense to try that approach first and save the long, costly and tedious approach required by the Orthodontist methods.
I hope this helps to clarify some additional options for those suffering form TMJ problems.
Yours in Health,