TMJ — sometimes called TMD or temporomandibular joint disorder — is a painful condition that occurs when the joints on the side of your jaw aren’t working correctly.

For the following reasons, older adults are generally the recipients of TMJ pain treatment.

The most notable symptom of TMJ disorder is a clicking or grating sound when you open your mouth, accompanied by pain.

1. With aging comes the gradual decline of muscle strength. This is because of the deterioration of parts that bind the jawbone to the skull. 

2. The joints that hold your muscles together can get weaker with age or deteriorate. 

3. The miniscule discs that absorb shock around the jaw can move out of the correct position over time. 

4. Extensive dental restorations like crowns and dentures can lead to TMJ if they are not correctly placed. 

5. Trauma can also cause TMJ disorder. If you have gone through an accident that resulted in a dislocation of your jaw, it can eventually lead to TMJ disorder. 

6. Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can cause muscle spasms, and in the long run, it can change the alignment of your teeth. Misaligned teeth can fasten the deterioration of the tissues around your jaw and lead to TMJ disorder. 

7. Habits like continually chewing gum, pen or a pencil or fingernails can cause tension in your jaw. 

8. Just as how the other joints in your body are more prone to arthritis, your jaw may also be a victim of osteoarthritis. A degenerative joint disease will lead to a gradual loss of cartilage and the formation of new bone at the surface of the joint.

9. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation in joints, and this disease can progressively cause the destruction of cartilage, and eventually cause joint deformity. 

Diagnosing yourself

The most notable symptom of TMJ disorder is a clicking or grating sound when you open your mouth, accompanied by pain and tenderness in your jaw. 

Other common symptoms of TMJ disorder include:

1. People with TMJ disorder might experience muscle spasms. 

2. People with TMJ disorder might hear a constant buzzing sound in their ear and might have a lot of ear pain. 

3. People with TMJ pain might suffer from facial pain on the affected side. 

4. People with TMJ pain can find it difficult to chew their food.

Treating TMJ 

The pain and discomfort that comes with a TMJ disorder can be overwhelming. However, there are a few ways to deal with it. Heat Pack: Wrapping a heat pack or a hot water bottle in a moist towel and putting it on the affected area on your jaw can help deal with TMJ pain.

1. Ice Pack: Ice packs decrease the inflammation and swelling caused by TMJ pain. 

2. Soft Diet: Change your diet to only include soft foods so that there is no stress on your jaw. 

3. Over-the-counter Analgesics: Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or muscle relaxants can help patients deal with the pain associated with TMJ disorder. 

4. Jaw Exercises: Jaw exercises can help increase your jaw mobility and healing. 

If your TMJ pain is getting worse by the day, then it’s time to visit a prosthodontist — a dental practitioner who can help you with TMJ pain. You can get fitted with an orthotic device or perhaps begin physical therapy, depending on the severity of the condition.

Shen Chao is part of Dr. Joshua Hong’s Smile Clinic. He writes about various dental topics to help readers improve their oral health.