“TMJ” has become a ‘catch-all’ term that refers to pain and dysfunction of the jaw joints, jaw muscles and related structures. The acronym “TMJ” stands for temporo-mandibular joint, the anatomic structure that joins the lower jaw to the skull. When problems related to pain and function develop in these structures, there are several possible causes and many effective treatments. Like other areas in medicine and dentistry, proposed treatments should be based in current research and science and are best carried out by experienced clinicians.
If a patient clenches or grinds their teeth during sleep, this is called bruxism. Untreated bruxism can result in dental injury and chronically inflamed and painful jaw muscles and jaw joints. Wearing an oral appliance during sleep may help, but not always. Often periods of clenching during sleep are associated with various sources of stress and may pass as the stress resolves.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (drugs in the same class as Ibuprofen) are helpful in treating pain conditions of the jaws and associated soft tissues. As with other inflammatory medical conditions treated by these medications, their use must be monitored, and sometimes limited or avoided, depending on other co-existing medical diagnoses.