The proper treatment for your TMJ disorder depends upon the specific diagnosis. If, for example, your pain is caused by clenching and grinding, your dentist may recommend medication for the pain and inflammation, moist heat, massage, and a softer, less chewy diet. He or she may also recommend stress reduction, biofeedback, or relaxation therapy. Sometimes a "splint" or "bite plate" or "nightguard" may be made for you to protect your teeth from grinding and clenching. This is most often a soft, clear plastic device that fits over the top or bottom teeth. It might be worn only during the night, or during the day too. Therapeutic splints, which gradually move your jaw to a more comfortable position, may also be recommended.
If it is determined that your bite is off and that is contributing to your problem, your dentist may recommend restoring damaged teeth, grinding tooth surfaces, replacing missing teeth, or fitting braces and other appliances.
In a few cases, probably less than 5% of the time, surgery may be recommended when other therapies have been repeatedly unsuccessful. Especially in cases of traumatic injury (a blow to the jaw, a car accident, etc.) or osteoarthritis, surgery may be needed to repair damaged tissue. Surgery may also attempt to replace or recapture the tissue which cushions your jaw as it connects to your skull. In a few cases, the condyle or jaw bone that fits into your cranium or skull might need to be repaired or built up.
TMJ problems sometimes improve spontaneously without treatment. However they might reoccur at a later time. Sometimes TMJ problems get progressively worse if they are not treated. Recent published research suggests that many people with moderately serious symptoms do not improve without treatment, and may get worse.
Early detection of TMJ problems is always advised. Your care giver may determine that mild TMJ symptoms exist, and he or she might suggest just monitoring the problem, while advising you to avoid habits (like grinding, clenching, and eating chewy foods) that could make the problem worse. For more information on TMJ treatment visit our TMJ Helpful Links.