The temporomandibular joints are the sliding hinge joints that connect the skull and the jaw bone on either side of the face. When this joint becomes diseased, patients experience pain both in the joints and in the muscles that support jaw movement. Pain in the area can be attributed to a variety of factors, such as habitually clenching the jaw or grinding the teeth. Genetics, arthritis, and injury can also lead to this pain. Additional symptoms of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disease include difficulty or pain while chewing, aching pains around the ears, locking of the joint, and clicking sounds when you open or move your mouth. In most cases, the discomfort associated with TMJ disease is temporary and can be treated with the following options.
Nonsurgical interventions for temporomandibular joint disease will typically begin with a doctor recommending medication. Over-the-counter pain relief medication and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, are usually the first step, though these are never meant to be taken regularly and habitually, as prolonged use can cause serious side effects. When these are not sufficient at relieving TMJ pain, your doctor or dentist may prescribe stronger medication. These can include muscle relaxants and even tricyclic antidepressants, which are often used to treat pain. However, these should be utilized only for a few days or weeks, as it is not a healthy, sustainable option to treat temporomandibular joint pain in this way for months or years.
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