Temporomandibular joint disorders, TMJ for short, is an incredibly painful condition that tends to occur when the joints in a person's jaw are not working as they should. TMJ can affect individuals young and old, but this article is going to focus on the prevention and treatment of TMJ in older individuals.
Causes of TMJ
For younger individuals, the pain comes from issues that impact the muscle of the jaw. However, with older individuals, while the exact root cause of TMJ has not been identified as of yet, there are many factors that have been connected between TMJ and age, including:
- Trauma to the cartilage or joint, as well as head, neck, or jaw injuries
- Muscle spasms in the head, neck, or jaw, typically caused by injuries, accidents, or other medical conditions
- Onset of arthritis, particularly rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and gout, all of which have the ability to impact multiple joints throughout the body
- Changes in the structure of teeth (wearing down of the teeth or replacement of the teeth) or various dental procedures (fitting of dentures, replacement of old fillings, etc.)
Warning Signs of TMJ
For older individuals, the warning signs of this condition may be different than in younger individuals. Older individuals may experience increased dizziness, frequent headaches, stiff shoulders, neck aches, pain in the jaw, sensitivity to sound, jaw popping or locking, reduced movement of the jaw, noises in the jaw, as well as buzzing in the ear. In addition, the individual may experience teeth grinding or jaw clenching that may eventually lead to muscle spasms.
When it comes to any kind of medical-related condition, prevention is always key. The same is true with TMJ. To prevent TMJ, you will want to relieve as much stress on the jaw as possible. You can do this by ensuring that your face remains relaxed, with your teeth apart, and your lips together. Try to massage your cheeks, temples, and jaw on a regular basis. Avoid relaxing your chin on your hand, and when you yawn, use your hand to support your lower jaw. When eating, take small bites and chew on both sides of your mouth. Don't chew on anything you shouldn't, such as pencils, pens, fingernails, etc.
There are many treatments for TMJ, even for older individuals. Relaxation techniques help to ease TMJ pain while resting the jaw, and they are particularly effective at the beginning stages of TMJ. In many cases, these techniques are paired with other treatment methods. Jaw exercises can be used to exercise the jaw, reducing symptoms and improving movement. In some cases, orthodontics can help, especially if teeth grinding is a major issue. In severe cases, surgery is an option to repair the joint. Botox or steroid injections can be used to help reduce symptoms, including inflammation.
For more information on TMJ treatment, reach out to your healthcare provider. Companies like The Alpher Center can help.