Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is a quite common condition and causes symptoms like pain in the jaw joint and muscles, facial pain, and limited jaw mobility. The TMJ dysfunction makes chewing and talking painful. It is not always so easy to figure out what causes TMJ disorders. This can make it difficult to answer the question “Can TMJ go away?” The good news is that most cases of TMJ disorders go away with home management like reducing your stress or eating soft foods or conservative remedies ranging from dentist-recommended mouth guards to physical therapies.
Understanding TMJ disorders
The TMJs are the joints on each side of your head that are located in front of each ear that connect your lower jaw (mandible) to your skull. Temporomandibular joint disorders, or TMD, is a group of conditions that result in pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and muscles surrounding it. The condition is also commonly called TMJ disorder.
The common signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders can include:
- Jaw pain which can be felt while chewing, talking, or opening your mouth wide
- Jaw locking
- Restricted jaw movements
- Clicking and popping sounds coming from TMJ as you open or close your mouth
- Facial pain
- Earaches or other ear symptoms like ringing
What causes TMJ disorders?
TMJ is quite a complex joint. It allows jaw movements in three directions and therefore controls our crucial life abilities of talking and chewing. The upper end of each part of the lower jaw (condyles) fits into the joint socket. There is a soft tissue disc between the condyle and the socket and large pairs of muscles on the cheeks and temporal bone. They all work as a unit and enable your lower jaw movements.
Your TMD problem can occur because of any dysfunction of these parts, whether in the jaw joint, the disc, or the muscles. Some of the common causes of TMJ disorders can include:
- Impact of an injury to the jaw joint or nearby tissues
- Poor posture
- Bite misalignment
- Malocclusion or missing teeth
- Genetic or other underlying medical conditions
Can TMJ go away without treatment?
It can be difficult to say whether TMJ disorder goes away on its own since it really depends on the causes and severity of the condition. For most individuals, the symptoms of TMJ may be mild and temporary. The symptoms, therefore, resolve without professional intervention.
However, some people can develop severe TMJ disorders and experience chronic pain which require help from a dentist or other specialist such as therapists to achieve relief. When certain lifestyle factors such as stress or poor posture leads to TMJ pain, it goes away once you improve jaw posture or relieve your stress.
Stress plays a major role in TMJ dysfunction. It is also one of the common causes of bruxism—grinding teeth and clenching jaw. If your TMJ is associated with bruxism, talk to your dentist and seek treatment before there is further damage to your teeth. If your TMJ pain is the result of other underlying conditions such as arthritis, you will also need to get professional treatment.
How long does it take for TMJ disorders to go away?
TMJ disorder doesn’t have to be a permanent condition. It is curable and can be managed or treated with the right treatment. TMJ pain can be continuous or recurrent which can be mild or very painful depending on the causes.
Since there are various causes of TMJ disorders, its duration can vary, too. The pain may stay 2 to 3 weeks and then go away. However, if the symptoms occur because of an underlying condition— such as arthritis, bruxism, jaw injury, or teeth and bite alignment issues, the TMJ pain and discomfort can last months or even years. Therefore, as long as the underlying cause is not diagnosed and treated, the pain can recur at any time by any triggers.
What will happen if TMD goes untreated?
It is essential to see a dentist or medical professional by first signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders. There are many ways to help manage the pain or find a cure based on the underlying cause.
Untreated TMJ issues can affect your oral and overall health significantly. The painful chronic symptoms and discomfort disturb your normal life and add to your emotional distress. The condition can lead to prolonged persistent pain and cause more damage to jaw joints and muscles. You may develop increased facial pain, earaches, and headaches.
In addition to painful symptoms, TMD with habitual teeth grinding and jaw clenching has destructive effects on your teeth, jaw joints, and soft tissues.
If bruxism and TMJ disorders go untreated, the constant grinding damages tooth enamel seriously. It leads to more dental problems, including chipped teeth, broken teeth, damage to dental restorations, and ultimately tooth loss.
What are some TMJ disorders treatment options?
Because TMD can have various causes, there are also different methods to get relief from at-home care to professional treatments.
Your dentist or doctor will first recommend home treatments.
At home treatments
In most cases, the symptoms of TMJ can be treated with self-care and home management. You can avoid certain lifestyle habits and improve your jaw function. To help ease your TMJ pain, you can:
- Try to consume soft foods
- Avoid foods that are hard or chewy which require excessive jaw movements and give you more pain
- Avoid chewing gum
- Reduce your stress
- Use heat or ice to reduce pain and inflammation
- Practice recommended jaw stretching exercises to recover your jaw function
- Avoid leaning on your chin or certain postures that put pressure on your jaw joint and muscles
Home remedies can be a great solution for self-care TMJ relief. However, you will need more permanent treatments to address the root cause of your TMJ disorders. Your condition can be related to other causes, including bruxism, jaw trauma, teeth malocclusion, or bite misalignment.
So, to achieve long-term relief, your dentist can recommend:
- Mouth guards to protect teeth if you grind or clench your teeth
- Mouth guards or splints to achieve proper position or realign jaw joints or discs
- Restoration like crowns and fillings to rebuild damaged teeth and restore your bite
- Implant or dentures in place of missing teeth
- Orthodontic treatment to permanently fix your jaw misalignments and teeth alignment problems
Based on your individual condition, physical therapies or behavioral therapies can be recommended to relieve the TMJ symptoms. Your therapy may include:
- Stretches and exercises to decrease pressure in your jaw muscles or joints to regain normal function
- Physical relaxation techniques
- Stress management exercises
Surgery or other procedures
Most cases of TMD go away with non-invasive treatments. In fact, the condition is typically not severe enough to require surgery or invasive treatments. However, if none of the methods improve your symptoms, your doctor may ultimately suggest surgery.
Botox injections is one of those treatments which help effectively with pain reduction and chronic teeth grinding. And for serious defective jaw problems, your doctor may recommend treatments such as arthrocentesis or open-joint surgery.