What is TMJ and when it is accompanied by fever? What is the treatment?
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, which operates the jaw. It connects the lower jaw, mandible, to the temporal bone in the skull. You can feel the joint moving if you place your hands below your temples and open and close your mouth.
TMJ usually refers to the problems that can plague these joints and the muscles around them. TMJ disorder is also known as TMJ syndrome or TMD, for temporomandibular disorders.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has designated three categories of TMJ disorders. The first, myofascial pain, is the most common.
- Myofascial pain — pain or discomfort in the muscles of the jaw, head and neck.
- Internal derangement — meaning dislocation or injury to the jaw or its disc.
- Degenerative joint disease — for instance, osteoarthritis.
- A variety of symptoms can be attributed to TMJ, but fever is not among them. A persistent fever should not be ignored, so I suggest seeing your doctor to rule out other possibilities. Symptoms that are related to TMJ include:
- pain and/or a clicking or popping sensation in the jaw when opening or closing the mouth
- pain in the face, ears, neck, shoulders and even the back
- “locking” of the jaw and uncomfortable or limited jaw motions
- changes in the bite
- ringing in the ears
- swelling on the sides of the face or around the mouth.
While many people, mostly women, are believed to have TMJ, the condition is not usually severe. Sometimes it causes little or no discomfort and few noticeable symptoms. When treatment is needed, the issue can present a quagmire of confusion for the patient. According to the TMJ Association, various kinds of medical and dental practitioners offer about 50 different TMJ treatments.
Unless you have severe TMJ, the NIH recommends looking for treatments that are conservative and reversible. You may want to begin with simple self-care methods, such as applying ice or moist heat, taking non-prescription pain medicine, eating soft foods that are easy to chew, and avoiding harsh, abrupt movements of the jaw, such as gum chewing and large yawning. Relaxation techniques are also helpful.
If the conservative, simple treatments do not help, be extremely cautious about proceeding with further treatment. If a doctor or dentist suggests surgery, dental reconstruction or any treatment that is expensive and irreversible, it is a good idea to get several other independent medical opinions before making a decision.