We live in a heavily medicated society, so the expectation is that for any medical condition you might have, there’s probably a medication you can take for it. But that’s not really the case for TMJ. Medications are available that can help reduce some of the symptoms, especially pain, and medications can be a good addition to your TMJ treatment, but there are no medications that can be used to simply treat TMJ.
Medications as Part of Home Care
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications can be an important part of your TMJ home care.
Acetaminophen (commonly known by the brand name Tylenol) can relieve pain associated with TMJ, but it’s not effective at reducing swelling. This means that it can provide temporary relief of symptoms, but won’t address the causes of pain. Acetaminophen is generally perceived as safe, but it can actually cause serious health problems. Acetaminophen overdoses can cause acute liver problems. You may have to be taken to the emergency room, and you may need a liver transplant if you take too much acetaminophen. That’s why it’s important to never violate the dosage recommendations.
NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) not only help reduce pain, they can control swelling, too, which can help resolve minor problems with the temporomandibular joint. With NSAIDs, the concern is not so much about acute overdosages as it is with cumulative toxicity. Taking too many NSAIDs over time can also damage your liver, and it’s been associated with heart problems.
Prescriptions for TMJ
A few prescription drugs are used in the management of TMJ. Tricyclic antidepressants are sometimes used to help control chronic pain conditions like TMJ. They alter the way your body interprets pain, but they do have mood-altering effects, which can be positive or negative.
Muscle relaxants are used to target muscle activity that contributes to TMJ-related symptoms, including pain, tooth grinding, and damage to the teeth or bones. These can help your symptoms, but their side effects may be undesirable, such as grogginess and inability to perform complex tasks like driving.
Anti-anxiety medications may also be prescribed when stress is a major factor in muscle tension that results in damaging grinding behaviors. They are not generally recommended for long-term management of this condition, but they can be helpful.
Injections for TMJ
Corticosteroid injections are sometimes used to control pain and inflammation in the jaw joint. This is less common than for back pain and other similar types of joint pain caused by inflammation, but for people with serious TMJ that is not responding to other treatments, injections may be tried.
If you would like to learn more about the best TMJ treatment for you in Detroit, please call the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness at (248) 480-0085 or an appointment.