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Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) pain and treatments

What is the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)?

The temperomandibular joint is the hinge and sliding joint between your lower jaw (mandible) and the bone at the bottom of your skull (the temporal bone). The joint is wrapped in a fibrous capsule and inside is a synovial membrane which secretes fluid to keep the joint lubricated. Between the two bones is a disc otherwise known as a meniscus. Many of the problems of the TMJ are caused by damage or displacement of this disc.

What are the common problems related to the TMJ?

The most common problem related to the TMJ is displacement of the disc caused by clenching and grinding of the teeth or injuries to the jaw. This displacement leads to clicking, locking and pain and over time causes the joint to wear out prematurely leading to osteoarthritis. As well as osteoarthritis, the TMJ is also susceptible to all diseases at any other joint such as, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

What are the common symptoms related to TMJ damage?

Symptoms of TMJ conditions vary, but the most common are:

  • Pain and tenderness of your jaw
  • Pain radiating up the side of your head/face and down into your neck
  • Clicking of your jaw
  • Locking of your jaw either open or closed
  • Pain in and around your ear (a lot of TMJ patients initially think they have an ear infection before seeing the correct specialist)

What are the causes and risk factors for TMJ damage?

Some common causes and risks factors for TMJ damage are:

  • Clenching and grinding of teeth
  • Injury to the teeth or jaw
  • Hyper mobility or Ehlers Danlos syndrome (looseness of the jaw) when ligaments lose laxity and dislocation becomes more common
  • Having arthritis in your other joints

Why is a TMJ disorder difficult to determine?

A TMJ disorder is difficult to determine because the pain is often felt in the ear and a lot of people don’t appreciate that the TMJ is a joint like any other therefore can develop the same diseases. For example, when people have pain in their knee they assume it is arthritis but when they have pain in their TMJ they are unlikely to think they are suffering with arthritis. 

What are the current treatment options available?

Current treatment options usually start from simple interventions like rest and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). Arthroscopies are a less common procedure, however, Mr. Luke Cascarini is the only surgeon in the UK who has developed a technique to fix the disc position using arthroscopic surgery. Sometimes open joint procedures are required for removing failed discs, fat grafting and rarer still, joint replacement surgery which is considered a last resort.

At The Regenerative Clinic, a new non-surgical treatment is available using fat (adipose) which is taken from your belly, and injected, using ultra-sound guidance into the TMJ. An innovative processing of the fat, using a technique called Lipogems cleans and purifies the fat, activating the Mesenchymal Stem Cells and harnessing your bodies own natural ability to repair. Find out more about Lipogems®.

If you would like to discuss this new treatment option, please make an enquiry or arrange an appointment with our specialist below.

Why have a consultation at The Regenerative Clinic?

Our innovative range of treatments goes beyond what’s available on the NHS. As well as providing a full opinion on your TMJ that includes all the traditional non-surgical and surgical options, our experienced consultant will also assess your suitability for our alternative biological therapies. Mr. Luke Cascarini is able to offer you the full range of TMJ treatments including Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy and Lipogems® Adipose Tissue Therapy which is only available at The Regenerative Clinic.

What can I expect in my consultation?

You’ll see our expert Maxillofacial and Head and Neck Surgeon consultant, Mr. Luke Cascarini for around 30 minutes. Either before or on the day, we’ll arrange for you to have an MRI scan so that an imaging report is ready for your appointment. As well as reviewing this with you, Mr. Cascarini will take your medical history, discuss your symptoms, carry out a physical examination and discuss all the treatment options with you, and their potential benefits and risks. Occasionally a diagnostic nerve block injection is required. 

What treatments does the The Regenerative Clinic offer?

Our renowned medical team provides a range of treatments, from the traditional to the innovative:

Lipogems® Adipose Tissue Therapy

Lipogems® Adipose Tissue therapy is a minimally invasive treatment which uses your own fat tissue to promote healing. It is particularly beneficial for people with painful joints and a limited range of motion.

Fat is essential for cushioning and supporting joints and helping the repair of damaged and injured tissue. Lipogems® therapy involves fat cells being taken from your abdomen while you are sedated with a local anaesthetic. Your collected fat is processed in the Lipogems® device which rinses and cleans inflammatory oils and blood and keeps the natural and beneficial properties of the fat tissue. This is then injected into your TMJ joint to help naturally heal the damaged area. 

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy, also known as autologous conditioned plasma, takes advantage of the blood’s natural healing properties to repair damaged cartilage, tendons, ligaments, muscle and bone. It can reduce pain and improve joint function.

With a higher concentration of growth factors than typically found in blood, PRP injections support the restoration of injured tissue and inhibit painful inflammatory processes.

This treatment is widely researched and supported in clinical papers. See our PRP evidence section.

For pain relief, injections can be more effective than an oral medication because they deliver medication directly to the exact anatomic location that is generating the pain. Typically, a steroid medication is injected to deliver a powerful anti-inflammatory solution directly to the area causing pain.