Many treatments for temporomandibular (TMJ) joint disorders are available. None of these have been consistently shown to be superior to the others. Often the clinical course does not reflect a progressive disease. Then the main goals of treatment are to reduce or eliminate pain, joint noises and to restore normal function. This is best achieved when contributing factors such as stress, depression and contributing habits (such as bruxism (teeth grinding)) are also addressed. Some patients will benefit from psychotropic medication and/or psychotherapy.
It is important to understand that many people afflicted by ‘TMJ problems’ have dysfunction of the muscles of mastication (chewing muscles) as a secondary manifestation of psychosocial conditions and the effect on the jaw joint itself is tertiary. All three components (muscle pain, disc dysfunction in the jaw joint, and psychological aspects) are commonly seen in the same patient. This is, obviously, an important factor in identifying optimal treatment strategies.
Only a small proportion of cases of jaw joint disorders benefits from surgery, about 1 in 20 cases. There are a range of surgical approaches currently used. These are more useful for patients suffering from internal derangement with severe chronic pain, or for cases with significant symptoms of mechanical dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint.
Next section: Jaw joint problems