If your TMJ-related pain has been around for months rather than weeks, it might be time to talk with your doctor about adjusting your treatment plan.

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is a painful condition that affects the way your jaw joint, called the temporomandibular joint, moves. Sometimes TMJ disorder resolves quickly on its own, but the condition can also become chronic (long lasting).

Chronic TMJ disorder typically causes worsening pain that spreads to additional areas, such as your face, neck, ears, and eyes. Treatment can help resolve these symptoms and includes medications, injections, therapy, and surgery.

The primary symptom of TMJ disorder is pain in the jaw. Often, this pain spreads to the ear, eye, forehead, neck, or parts of the face. Chronic TMJ disorder makes the pain more likely to spread.

It can lead to a range of symptoms, including:

Is it typical to have TMJ disorder for years?

The timeline for TMJ disorder depends on the person. Sometimes, TMJ disorder resolves on its own in 1 or 2 weeks. Severe TMJ disorder can become chronic and might last for months or years.

Without treatment, symptoms will typically worsen with time.

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Multiple treatment options are available for TMJ disorder. It’s common for a treatment plan to include a combination of medications and therapies.

Options include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Many NSAIDs are available over the counter (OTC), but they’re not always able to relieve the pain of chronic TMJ disorder. When this happens, your doctor might prescribe a stronger prescription NSAID option.
  • Muscle relaxers: Muscle relaxers are medications that stop muscle spasms and help resolve jaw pain and pain that’s spread to nearby areas. Typically, you’ll be prescribed muscle relaxers for only a short time.
  • Antidepressants: Sometimes, low dose antidepressants can help treat chronic pain.
  • Nerve pain medications: Medications that are used to treat nerve pain are an option for some people with chronic TMJ disorder.
  • Physical therapy: During physical therapy, you can stretch and strengthen your jaw. This can help resolve some symptoms.
  • Steroid injections: Injections into your jaw can help reduce inflammation and pain. Botox injections are also sometimes used to help stop muscle clenching and grinding.
  • Dental splints: Dental splints, sometimes called mouth or bite guards, can help keep your teeth in alignment. This can stop tooth grinding and can reduce symptoms.
  • Counseling: Therapy methods, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help some people with TMJ disorder hold less tension in their jaws and reduce habits such as teeth clenching and grinding.
  • Arthrocentesis: During arthrocentesis, a doctor uses small needles to push fluid through your jaw. This clears away inflammation and debris.
  • TMJ arthroscopy: Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical method, in which a surgeon uses small tools and computer imaging to repair damaged jaw bone and muscle.
  • Open-joint surgery: When other methods fail to relieve pain, an open-joint surgery is sometimes the best option. With this surgery, doctors can repair or even replace the jaw joint.

You can also take steps to relieve TMJ pain at home. These steps can be used alongside medical treatments to help manage your symptoms.

They include:

Insurance coverage for chronic TMJ pain

Your insurance coverage for chronic TMJ pain depends on factors such as your specific insurance plan, your location, and the treatments you receive. You can look up what costs to expect in your insurance plan’s coverage guide. Often, this information is available online. You can also call your plan to ask for more information about TMJ disorder coverage.

When you check on your coverage, you can start by searching the ICD10 number for TMJ disorder: “26. 60: Temporomandibular joint disorder, unspecified.”

Some treatments might be covered, while others might not be. For instance, some plans might consider dental splints to be a dental item, not a medical one. If your plan doesn’t include dental coverage, you might need to pay out of pocket.

You check out the TMJ Foundation for more information and support.

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Chronic TMJ disorder is a painful condition that leads to a wide range of symptoms. Pain can spread to the face, neck, ears, and eyes. The condition can cause difficulty seeing, eating, and more.

But treatment can help resolve these symptoms. Options include pain-relieving medications, therapies, splinting, injections, and surgeries. Talking with your doctor can help you determine which methods may work best for you.