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Temporomandibular joint disorders (TJDs) are problems that affect the joint between the lower jaw and the base of the skull.
A TJD is not usually a serious condition, but symptoms can impact significantly on quality of life. Doctors sometimes also refer to the condition as myofascial pain disorder.
It has been estimated that approximately 20-30% of the adult population will experience a TJD at some point. Symptoms usually last for a few months before getting better.
TJDs can cause:
The main causes of TJD are:
You can click on the above links for more information on these conditions.
If your TJD is severe, you may need to see more than one medical professional, such as a dentist, oral and maxillofacial surgeon, doctor, or ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.
Generally, non-surgical treatments such as lifestyle changes are tried first.
There are a number of self-help measures that can help improve TJD, including:
Mouth guards (plastic mouthpieces that fit over your teeth) may be helpful if you grind your teeth. These cover the teeth at night to reduce jaw clenching and teeth grinding, and can be made to measure by your dentist.
Read more about treatments for teeth grinding.
Paracetamol, ibuprofen or codeine can help relieve pain. If these are not strong enough, ask your doctor if they can prescribe you a muscle relaxant or tricyclic antidepressant, which may be more effective at relieving the pain.
If your TJD is caused by a disease such as arthritis, you may benefit from a steroid injection into the jaw joint.
A steroid injection can help reduce pain and swelling in a joint or the surrounding soft tissue. Most people report feeling less pain within the first 24 hours to one week. You may find that your pain improves for a period of a few weeks to several months, and in some cases the injection resolves the pain completely.
Read more about corticosteroids (steroids).
If the above measures do not help, you may wish to consider a surgical treatment such as:
There is always a risk that surgical procedures may lead to more serious symptoms. You should discuss these risks with your surgeon.
People with TJD who experience severe disability may wish to try an artificial temporomandibular joint replacement. Patients have reported finding it much easier to speak, sing and kiss with an artifical jaw.
The medical name for this procedure is total prosthetic replacement of the temporomandibular joint.
Under a general anaesthetic, a cut is made in front of the ear and behind or below the lower jaw. The diseased parts of the jaw are replaced with artificial joints, which can be made from various materials.
The benefits of joint replacement can be significant for some patients.
Possible risks include:
You should discuss these risks with your surgeon.
Most TJDs improve over time and do not get worse, and most people will not need surgery.
In the meantime, symptoms can often be improved with the treatments mentioned above.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.