How Does Prednisone Treat TMJ?

By Jacquelyn Jeanty

TMJ disorders encompass a group of conditions that involve joint and muscle pain in the jaw. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, as many as 10 million people in the United States suffer from some form of jaw-related disorder. The exact cause of the condition remains unknown, though certain medications like prednisone and other analgesics may be effective treatment options.

TMJ Disorders

TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joints that connect the jawbone to the skull on either side of the head. These joints make tasks like talking, eating, and facial expressions possible. TMJ junctions are among the most highly used joints in the body. TMJ disorders result when one or both of these joints begin to malfunction. Individuals who suffer from this condition may experience stiffness in the jaw, ongoing ear pain, headaches and a popping or clicking sound when opening and closing the jaw. Both muscle and joint pain are possible, either as sharp pains or a dull, continuous ache.

Prednisone

Prednisone is a synthetic cortiscosteroid medication used to treat conditions where inflammation is present. Its formula is based on cortisol, a natural hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. The anti-inflammatory effect works to decrease the pain symptoms associated with TMJ. For the body to use prednisone, it must be processed through the liver and converted into prednisolone. Prednisone may be prescribed along with other medications like analgesics and muscle relaxants depending on the severity of the disorder.

Function

TMJ disorders can develop into actual joint damage in the jaw, making essential everyday tasks like eating an excruciating experience. Joint damage occurs when the bone structures that form the joint begin to deteriorate. Inflammation that persists over long periods can work to quicken this deterioration process. Prednisone mimics the effects of cortisol by reducing the amount of inflammation in the TMJ joints. As a result, joint pressure decreases and pain symptoms subside. Prednisone is usually prescribed on an as-needed basis once it’s had a chance to work its way through the body. The initial dosage can range from 5 to 60 mg a day depending on the severity of symptoms. It may take up to a week before the full effects of the drug are felt.

Side Effects

As effective as prednisone can be at treating pain and inflammation symptoms, a number of possible adverse effects are associated with its use. Possible side effects vary from person to person. Short-term effects include headaches, tiredness, insomnia and euphoria. Individuals who take prednisone over long periods are at risk of developing osteoporosis, depression, Cushing's syndrome and type II diabetes. This wide range of adverse reactions is due to Prednisone’s hormone-like effects on the body’s processes.

Considerations

Prednisone is usually prescribed as a short-term treatment for TMJ because of its high potential for side effects. Non-steroid, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) like ibuprofen and naproxen may be prescribed along with, or as an alternative to, prednisone to help alleviate pain symptoms. Certain foods like grapefruit and those high in salt and potassium content may block the body’s ability to absorb Prednisone, and may need to be eliminated from the diet. As Prednisone’s effectiveness depends on the liver’s ability to synthesize it into a usable form, individuals who suffer from liver problems may see limited results.

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