Answering the basic questions about TMJ Disorder and understanding treatment costs, methods, TMJ surgery insurance availability, etc.
Many times we dismiss a simple pain in the jaw or uneasiness in our dental systems as something immaterial. But the same pain can be a starting point of a common yet highly annoying disease of the Temporomandibular joint, the joint that joins the jaw with the skull, called the TMJ Disorder.
It isn’t a much talked about disease, even though it is fairly common. Around 35 million people in the US suffer from TMJ (source) at a given time. That means around 12% of the population, which means it indeed is a common disorder.
The skull is joint to the jaw by temporomandibular joints on either side. These two joints work together as a pair. They connect the mandible or the lower jaw to the temporal bones of the skull, hence the name. They help with the overall movement and function of the jaw.
A TMJ complication could occur due to inflammation, injury or infection in the joint or the muscles that hold it together. As the joint is very tender and unlike other joints, its treatment can require specialized treatment. People who are suffering from a TMJ disorder might have difficulties with chewing, speaking, swallowing, even making certain facial expressions.
The symptoms of TMJ disorder could be confusing and therefore it is common for a person to associate it with ear pain or a simple jaw pain instead of a joint issue of the skull and the jaw together.
- Clenching or grinding teeth
- Pain in the ears or temporal region
- Stiff jaw muscle
- Painful clicking, grating sounds in the jaw during movement
- Occasionally, ringing in the ear or vision problems
Mostly, some physiotherapy or simple painkillers, even home remedies can be enough to treat the issue with the Temporomandibular joint, but in extreme cases, surgery is required.
Surgery is rare but could act as a permanent solution in extreme cases and help the patient have a much better lifestyle. A doctor would be able to judge whether there is a need for surgery by checking for the sound of clicking when the patient opens and closes his mouth, press the jaw to understand the exact pain point, etc.
The major concern many patients have is to know does insurance cover tmj or not. In many states, it is mandated for medical/dental insurances to include TMJ surgery as a part of it, however, it is possible that your plan doesn’t cover it. A full-fledged surgery might cost somewhere around 30 to k USD. It is therefore important to check for a tmj insurance coverage before you make the decision of undergoing surgery. Your pain and the severity of the disease might make you feel that medical insurance might naturally cover it, but it is definitely advisable to shop around for dental insurance that covers tmj (there are many available) if your insurance doesn’t.