The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects your jaw to your skull. When this joint is injured or damaged, it can lead to a disorder called temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome. The causes of TMJ syndrome include injury to the teeth or jaw, misalignment of the teeth or jaw, teeth grinding, poor posture, stress, arthritis, and excessive gum chewing.
The signs and symptoms of TMJ syndrome include pain in the jaw joint, clicking of the jaw, ear pain, popping sounds in ears, headaches, stiff or sore jaw muscles, pain in the temple area, or locking of the jaw.
TMJ syndrome often responds to home remedies, including ice packs to the joint, judicious use of over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), avoiding chewing gum, massage or gentle stretches of the jaw and neck, and stress reduction. When home treatment does not work, medical treatment for temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome includes dental splints, injections, physical therapy, prescription medications, and in severe cases, surgery may be indicated.
The prognosis for TMJ syndrome is generally good as the disorder can usually be managed with self-care and home remedies. But, when symptoms don’t improve and patients aren’t surgical candidates, or have a strong a desire to avoid surgery, then a trial of platelet rich plasma injections (PRP) may be warranted.
Platelet Rich Plasma, or PRP is blood plasma with concentrated platelets (the body’s repair men for damaged tissue). The concentrated platelets found in PRP contain huge reservoirs of bioactive proteins, including growth factors that are vital to initiate and accelerate tissue repair and regeneration. These bioactive proteins initiate connective tissue healing, bone regeneration, and repair, promote development of new blood vessels, and stimulate the wound healing process.
A recently published study in the Journal of Oral Maxillofacial Surgery compared PRP injections to hyaluronic acid injections (a form of joint lubrication) in a sample of patients who met diagnostic criteria for TMJ syndrome. After receiving PRP injections, at 6 and 12 months, the PRP group exhibited better performance compared with the HA group in terms of the recurrence of pain and joint sounds.
What do these results mean for patients? It means that PRP injections into the TMJ might help alleviate symptoms. Up to three injections may be required and the results seem to be durable for up to one-year. More studies are needed to evaluate long-term outcomes beyond one year. Still, for patients wishing to avoid steroids or put off surgery, PRP injections are a viable option to consider.
The specialists at Columbia Pain Management, PC are experts at applying the latest findings from the science of Regenerative Medicine to reduce pain and improve function. We use the Regenexx proprietary form of platelet rich plasma and platelet lysate that can be customized and concentrated beyond what is typically available from other producers. If you’re feeling stuck, stymied, or frustrated by chronic TMJ pain, then we might be able to help.