A recent article in US News & World Report looked at one woman’s struggle to get treatment for her temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). It’s not a heartening story, because her symptoms persist, despite years of trying to get treatment for her condition.

This can make people wonder: why don’t we have a cure for TMJ? The answer is complicated. Partly, it’s that TMJ isn’t just one condition. Partly, it’s that joint problems are hard to treat. And, partly, it’s that we don’t fully understand the condition.

But there is good news here, too. We may not have a cure for TMJ, but many people find relief from their symptoms and can enjoy life pain-free.

TMJ Can Mean Many Things

When it comes to TMJ, there isn’t just one condition. We may use the single label as an umbrella term, but the actual symptoms and causes of the condition can vary widely. There are at least three different categories of TMJ: myofascial pain disorder (MPD), disc displacement, and degenerative joint disease. At one time, MPD was used as a term for TMJ, but now it’s used to describe the type of TMJ where muscle dysfunction is the primary source of discomfort and other symptoms.

It’s possible to have all three of these types of TMJ at the same time, or you can have TMJ symptoms that can’t be attributed to any of them. Until we narrow the condition down to a single definition, there’s no way we can cure it, although we have successful treatments for several of the subtypes.

When Joints Go Wrong, It’s Hard to Make Them Right

When joints get injured or damaged, it’s hard to treat them properly. You probably know someone who has had chronic knee or ankle pain for years, and treatments haven’t worked to give them relief. The temporomandibular joint is one of the most complicated joints in the body, so it’s not surprising that people with problems in this joint should have a hard time getting effective treatment.

We Don’t Fully Understand TMJ

Part of the reason why we haven’t found a cure for TMJ is the same as why there’s no cure for migraines: we don’t really know what causes it. The link between TMJ and migraines is complex, and we can see the mechanisms that cause TMJ to trigger migraines (and sometimes vice versa), but we don’t understand enough to completely stop the chain of events. We also don’t know the degree to which TMJ may be related to nerve sensitization, either in the jaw or in the spine or brain.

Treatment Is Available for Many People

But there is good news. Despite the fact that we don’t have a cure for TMJ, we can provide effective relief for many people, especially those with either disc displacement or MPD types of TMJ.

We use a comprehensive suite of diagnostic technologies, including CT and MRI to help us give you a more accurate diagnosis that can serve as the basis for effective TMJ treatment. You can often enjoy relief during your first visit, and with treatment you can have greatly reduced pain. You may feel cured.

If you would like to learn whether TMJ treatment can help relieve your symptoms in Denver, under the guidance of Dr. Kevin Berry, a board-certified orofacial pain specialist with the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain, please call (303) 691-0267 today for an appointment with a TMJ dentist at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado.