If you are suffering from TMJ, it’s best to start with home care. Rest your jaw, eat a soft food diet, apply heat to sore muscles, and apply cold to swollen joints. You can take over-the-counter medication to control pain, as long as you don’t exceed the label directions.
But if discomfort persists for over a week or worsens, you should talk to your doctor or a TMJ dentist about your condition. Once you’ve proven that your TMJ isn’t going to respond to home care, you should try to get TMJ treatment quickly, because the condition can worsen for several reasons.
Jaw Joint Damage Is Progressive
One reason to get TMJ treated quickly is that damage to your jaw joint will increase over time. If the cushioning disc in the jaw has been displaced, the bones will grind together, wearing one another down. The soft tissue that is supposed to hold the disc in place can become damaged over time.
If your disc is sliding out of place and back in again, shown by the popping sound your joint makes, it may stop sliding back in place, which can be a sign of serious damage to the joint.
Overall, postponing treatment can increase the risk that you will need surgical replacement for your jaw joints.
Tooth Damage Is Progressive
Another problem with postponing TMJ treatment is that your teeth may be suffering damage. The longer you wait to get TMJ treatment, the worse the damage can become. And as the teeth get damaged, it can actually put the jaw further out of position, leading to worsening TMJ.
The longer you wait on TMJ treatment, the more likely you are to need full mouth reconstruction.
You Can Pick up Bad Habits
If your jaw is hurting you, you’ll naturally try to avoid motions that make it hurt. This may be good in the short term, but can actually be damaging over the long run. It can decrease your chewing efficiency, damage your teeth, and displace your jaw joints. You might not even realize you’re doing it.
And the longer you utilize these chewing strategies, the harder it can be to unlearn them. Getting TMJ treatment sooner means you will return to a natural, healthy chewing motion sooner.
You Can Develop Sensitization
But perhaps the biggest reason to get TMJ treatment quickly is to avoid sensitization. Sensitization is a phenomenon in which your nerves start registering any phenomenon, even light pressure, as pain.
There are two types of sensitization: peripheral sensitization and central sensitization. In peripheral sensitization, the nerves in your jaw become sensitized, which can make it hard to eliminate the pain in the jaw. But central sensitization is worse: it means that your brain begins to interpret normal sensations from around the body as being painful. It’s suspected of being the link between TMJ and other chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Current theories suggest that the longer TMJ goes untreated, the more likely it is to lead to sensitization.
Don’t Put off TMJ Treatment
If you are suffering from TMJ that isn’t responding to at-home care, it’s time to look for help. For help with TMJ in Wichita Falls, TX, please call 940-322-2252 today for an appointment with a TMJ dentist at StarImage Dentistry.