Temporomandibular joint disorder, “What is that?” you might ask. Commonly known as TMJ, this disorder affects more than 10 million Americans.
TMJ disorders occur when the cartilage between the ball and socket of the jaw joint becomes damaged or displaced due to disease, injury, dental procedures, or general wear and tear.
Temporomandibular joints are located in the front of each ear and connect the mandible (lower jaw bone) to the skull.
Trauma to the TMJ can limit movements of the jaw and the ability to chew, speak, and breath.
Symptoms normally associated with TMJ may include: headaches; earaches; clicking of the jaw; dizziness; and facial, neck, shoulder, and back pain that may be moderate to severe.
Diagnosed in 2003 with this complex disorder, I had been experiencing most of these symptoms for nearly three years and was frustrated that my healthcare provider could not explain the cause of my pain.
Two CT scans within a two year period and the source of my pain still could not be pinpointed.
Diagnosis is hard to determine considering most of the symptoms mimic sinusitis and pain disorders such as ernest syndrome; temporal tendonitis; and trigeminal neuralgia.
After being referred by an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist to receive my third CT scan, I was diagnosed with the TMJ disorder following a thorough evaluation of my x-rays.
It was recommended that I schedule an appointment with my dentist to get fitted for a dental appliance to stabilize my jaw.
Getting to the root of the pain was both literally and physically a relief, but not to my pocket. I later discovered that I would be financially responsible for the customized dental appliance.
Unfortunately, many healthcare insurance companies do not cover most TMJ related treatments because of the uncertainty of its effectiveness.
These treatments may include therapy such as transcutaneous electrical neural stimulation; arthrocentesis; mouth guards (splints or appliances); or non-steroidal anti-flammatory medication.
Depending on the stage of the diagnosis and severity of the disorder, TMJ sufferers may find relief through self-care treatments.
Your physician may recommend the following self-remedies to ease TMJ symptoms:
· eat soft foods
· apply ice or moist heat
· avoid chewing gum
· stretch and massage jaw muscle
Surgery is rarely needed and usually the last option in treating TMJ but recommended if non-surgical treatments are unsuccessful.
Suggested TMJ surgical treatments may include disk repositioning, discectomy, articular eminence recontouring, or TMJ replacement.
It’s best to check with your health insurance provider to inquire about what treatments and procedures are covered.