By Dr. Frederick Abeles

Published January 30, 2022

Home Blog Will my TMJ go away on its own?

“Procrastination is like a credit card. It’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.”
– Christopher Parker

“The best way to predict your future is to create it.”
– Abraham Lincoln

Will my TMJ go away on its own?

The quick answer: Probably not. Depends what your actual problem is.

It’s kind of like wondering when you have a sharp pain in your chest, “Will it just go away?”

If it’s a minor case of heartburn from enjoying that large pizza last night – probably.

If it’s a coronary artery vasospasm that’s a precursor to heart attack – not so much.

So, what’s it going to be? Get checked out? Or ignore it?

1. What’s Your Tolerance for Risk?

Do you like to gamble?

If you do, you may want to roll the dice and hope your TMJ problem goes away on its own.

Unfortunately, you’ll get better odds at the roulette wheel in Las Vegas if there’s any dysfunction in your joint.

TMJ dysfunction is no different than having a degenerative knee or hip.

If the joint is damaged, causing pain, limiting the range of motion, clicking, locking, etc… then ignoring the issue simply allows it to continue and worsen as time passes. It won’t go away on its own.

The more you have to lose – the more risk averse you become.

2. Is This a One-Time Occurrence or Not?

Did the symptoms occur just one time? Or have they been recurring over and over again?

If your symptoms have recurred, trust me – your body is trying to tell you something. The question is… Are you listening?

For example:

If you bit into a sandwich, felt a sharp pain that never happened before and the next day it’s gone and never reoccurred – you’re probably okay.

But if the sharp pain happened again a week later, or a month later… there’s a high likelihood that you have a TMJ problem that’s not going away on its own.

Ignore it at your own peril.

I don’t want to scare you, but TMJ dysfunction can be debilitating.

How do I know? Because it’s the only thing we treat in our practice, all day every day. Some patients ignored their symptoms too long – and the resulting damage created irreversible deterioration in the joint.

3. Give Up Your Excuses

“It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.”  – Randy Pausch

Your brain wants you to be calm. Your emotions want your life to be predictable.

We hate the unknown. So we procrastinate.

We try to avoid things that cause us stress.

We ignore problems and hope they’ll just go away on their own.

But usually, they get worse.

FACT: Most TMJ problems progressively worsen as time goes on.

4. Here’s What Happens if It Doesn’t Go Away

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”   – Jim Rohn

Your body is giving you feedback

You get daily feedback on the consequences of your behavior. Tell me what you ignore and I’ll tell you what’s still causing you pain.

Pay attention to your body’s feedback. If for no other reason than it will prevent you from becoming overconfident in the face of danger. With that in mind, here are indicators your TMJ isn’t going away on its own:

Muscle soreness and tenderness

It usually starts innocently enough. You have occasional pain around the joint when opening, closing or chewing. Or pain around the temple, lower jaw, ear or neck.

Clicking or popping in the joint

The way the TMJ is designed, there’s a little spacer between the ball and socket of the joint. The spacer’s job is to keep the ball and socket from rubbing against each other and damaging the joint.

It’s kind of like disc brakes in our car. When we hit the brakes, we don’t go metal on metal. We have a brake pad in between to protect the two pieces of metal and prevent them from damaging each other.

The same goes for our TMJ. We have our equivalent of a ‘brake pad’ in between the two bones to keep them from grinding against each other and causing damage. Our little pad is called the articular disc.

The pad slides between the ball and socket keeping them moving smooth as butter and keeping the joint working as it’s supposed to.

However, if our bite (the way our teeth fit together) positions our lower jaw a little too far up or back – it also positions the ball in the socket too far up or back with it.

If we don’t have enough room for the articular disc (the pad) to stay between the ball and socket, the disc gets stuck out in front of where it should be. When we open and close our mouth, we click on and off the disc.

It creates a noise – sometimes a little click – and sometimes a pronounced pop. Either way, the sound is made by the ball of the socket slipping on and off the disc.

It’s a painless phenomenon, but it’s a big warning sign that our bite isn’t positioning our lower jaw and the ball in the socket correctly.

Locking of the joint

As time goes by, if the disc stays stuck out in front of where it should be, the ligament that holds the disc in place stretches out and fatigues. As the ligament elongates, the disc migrates further forward out-of-place.

Eventually the ligament stretches out so much and the disc migrates so far forward that when we open – we no longer can reach the disc.

The disc, now stuck out in front, becomes a little ‘roadblock’ and prevents the ball of the socket from going through the rest of its range of motion. The result… we can’t open our mouth all the way. The joint is locked up.

Joint degeneration

If episodes of our lower jaw locking up aren’t bad enough… we can eventually perforate the ligament that holds the disc in place. Ligaments are like rubber bands. They’re not bulletproof.

This particular ligament’s job is to hold the disc in place. But if the disc is stuck out in front of where it should be – then the 90% of the time when our mouth is closed, the ball is pushing on the ligament.

That’s not the way the joint was designed. If it continues, we can perforate the ligament. Then when we open and close, the two bones rub together. That’s called crepitus – and it’s serious.

The joint can degenerate quickly and severely at this point.

Pain

During this entire scenario, the muscles of the head and neck involved in moving and stabilizing the TMJ and lower jaw are compensating for the dysfunction. The muscles become fatigued and spasm, producing various types of pain and symptoms.

5. Will it Become Permanent?

The better question: Will it become worse?

Only if you continue to ignore it. 

If you have symptoms of TMJ, make a decision.

Do you want to fix it or ignore it?

Decisions have consequences.

Indecision has consequences too.

Own your life. No one else will.

6. What to Do Next…

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.”   – Karen Lamb

Don’t focus on your fear of the unknown. Focus on your future.

Your TMJ can be rehabilitated. You can feel better and function better.

The decision to stop ignoring your TMJ is the clearest indicator of your outcome.

Call to Action:

If you want an entirely new approach to treating your TMJ without shots, drugs or surgery – that’s so effective your results are guaranteed ensuring your treatment success… click the link below to learn about MIRO Therapy®.

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