Twin Cities TMJ and Facial Pain Clinic

Inflammation or Capsulitis of the Jaw Joint

Inflammation is your body's way of protecting tissue from additional irritation or injury by surrounding the injured site with fluid.  Signs of inflammation are redness, heat, swelling and pain. Although pain is not pleasant, it is your body's way of ensuring you to limit the movement of the injured joint, allowing it to heal. A doctor's diagnosis of CAPSULITIS OF THE TMJ simply means that this protective inflammatory response has occurred in one or both of your jaw joints. 


Typically, inflammation will only occur when the joint or joints are vulnerable. In other words, if there has been an unusual amount of strain on one or both of the TMJs, possibly from excessive amount of chewy foods, the clenching/grinding or eating an excessive amount of chewy foods, the joint could be susceptible to inflammation from doing a very simple act. Opening wide or staying open for a prolonged dental exam or overextending your jaw to yawn or eat large foods can cause inflammation. Another common cause is trauma to the joint which can be a direct blow to the jaw, or something as simple as biting down on food the wrong way or sleeping on your side with your hand under your face, forcing your jaw off to one side. Therefore, a large number of events can lead to inflammation and pain in the TMJ. 


In addition to pain and limited mobility in the joint area, many people also experience muscle spasms or "referred pain" which is pain felt in areas of the head and neck other than the injured joint. Until the swelling in the joint decreases, malocclusion or difficulty bringing the teeth together properly can also occur, making it difficult to close down fully on the side or sides of the inflammation. 


Fortunately, inflammation is often an acute (short-term) condition that can usually be treated effectively with medications to decrease swelling and/or a basic home care plan from your doctor. In some cases, a more chronic and recurring set of symptoms requires comprehensive and long-term management.