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TMJ Disorder Questions & Answers Part Three

is there a cure for TMJ?
Here are the latest questions that have been submitted by TMJ disorder patients. Do you have a TMJ related question? Ask in the comments section below or send it to us and your question could be featured in our next Q&A!

1. Once you have TMJ do you have the problem for life or can you get rid of it completely?

This is a hard question to answer. Some patients find that they get better almost immediately with self-care techniques like a soft diet or heat or ice. Other patients however, don’t get better so fast. They might need some follow-up treatment with their dentist, splints, physical therapy, some medications, or other treatments. An even smaller percentage still may need to go on to more invasive treatment, like surgery. Please understand that this percentage is very small. Right now we don’t have any specific data on how many people end up having jaw surgery, but we do know that it’s a very small percentage – possibly in the 5% (or lower) percentile.
So to answer your question, is TMJ disorder something you will have for life, or can you get rid of it? I am not sure – everyone is so different. Most people don’t have it for life as far as we can tell, but I think it’s also something that you will always be aware of. For example, you might always have some jaw discomfort after eating something that is chewy. So it may be something that you have to deal with on and off throughout your life.
We find that many patients have periods in their lives where they are not affected by TMJ disorder, then other times where it does have an effect on their life and how they live. Stress is obviously a factor, and many patients find that if they are able to get rid of the TMJ pain for a long time, a period of high stress will make it come back.
I hope this answers your question, I know it’s complicated and I wish there was one answer that was 100% definitive but unfortunately there isn’t yet.

2. Now that I’ve cleared enough space in my upstairs room, I was hoping to get back into doing my aerobic workouts with videos. I am afraid the jarring is going to cause problems. When I get the pain under control, that won’t cause it to come back, will it?

I’m not sure what caused your TMJ pain, so I’m really unsure of whether one thing or the other could cause the pain to return. I do think that high impact exercise could cause issues. As long as you do exercise that is gentle to your jaw, I don’t think you’ll have a problem. Obviously, your doctor is a good person to ask this question so that you know for sure you are doing the right thing.

3. Would getting braces help cure my TMJ disorder?

At the moment, we don’t really have any data/research on whether braces actually work for TMJD. Obviously if your TMJ pain is caused by a bad bite and you are absolutely sure that this is the cause, then I suppose it is possible that braces may help you. We just don’t know for sure. So I would be weary to go with any treatment that there is very little research for. Just understand and adjust your expectations that this may not work for you. The bottom line is if less invasive treatments (self-care, for example) work for you, it is wise to stick with them since they do work! This way you don’t require moving your teeth around permanently, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars, and you don’t need to wait years for results. There is no cure for TMJ disorder at this time. Most patients find that developing a long term strategy of managing the pain rather than attempting to get rid of it works the best.

4. Is this something I should bring up to my dentist? Or my PCP? Who is better at making the diagnosis of TMJ disorder?

This is up to you. Which doctor do you have the best relationship with? If you have easy access to your primary care physician, it may be best to go to him or her first. However if you are seeing your dentist for a cleaning or for other reasons, you could also bring up your issues with him or her at the appointment. As far as diagnosis goes we have to understand that many medical doctors were not taught about TMJ disorder in medical school, and likewise some dentists were not taught about TMJD in dental school. It is crucial to make sure that the doctor you do see understands the temporomandibular joint and encourages you to try the less invasive treatments first. We also have an article about TMJD diagnosis if you would like to read more.

5. What are some home remedies for muscle tension in the neck and shoulders and headaches?

There many home remedies for jaw pain. We do have a page about self-care and this should help you choose which treatments to try for yourself. General self-care for muscle issues are going to be your first line treatments, like heat, ice, and over the counter medications. As far as TMJ related headaches go, many patients find that diet and nutrition plays a factor in their headaches. There are many foods that cause headaches. For example, red wine, bacon or other meats with nitrites, citric acid, and caffeine. All of these types of foods or substances can cause headaches outside of TMJ disorder. You may want to see if your diet is causing (or contributing to) your headaches and at the very least eliminate some of these problem foods. You may also want to see a masseuse if your budget allows. Some patients do find this helpful. Or… if you have a talented masseuse in your house…. ;)
Do you have a question about TMJ disorder that we can help you with? If so, leave it in the comments below or send it via our contact form.
PS – If you want to read our other Q&A’s….. here they are:  Part One, Part Two.

1 thought on “TMJ Disorder Questions & Answers Part Three”

  1. I was diagnosed with TMJ and spent a lot of money on an orthotic to wear at night. It was some help but not a total solution.
    I have also been diagnosed with arthritis in my neck and left shoulder (same side as the jaw pain). I was visiting some of the TMJ related websites and found one that talked about exercises and the relationship between TMJ and neck problems. I had once hurt my shoulder and still had the traction device that I used to help that. I started using it again and WOW! There went the TMJ pain. I still use the orthotic at night and about 3 or 4 times a week I use the traction. Now I am free of TMJ pain.

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