The temporomandibular joint (TMJ)is the hinge joint that connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull.
Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) occur as a result of problems with the neck, jaw, jaw joint, and surrounding facial muscles that control chewing and moving the jaw.
This joint is immediately in front of the ear on each side of your head. The joints are flexible, allowing the jaw to move smoothly up and down and side to side, enabling you to talk, chew, and yawn. Muscles attached to and surrounding the jaw joint controls its position and movement. When you talk and chew the jaw moves and also causes the upper neck vertebrae to move as well!
The cause of this disorder is not clear, but chiropractors and dentists believe that symptoms arise from problems with the muscles of the jaw or with the parts of the joint itself.
Injury to the jaw, temporomandibular joint, or joint and muscles of the head and neck such as from a heavy blow or whiplash can cause this disorder.
Other possible causes include: grinding or clenching the teeth, which puts a lot of pressure on the TMJ, dislocation of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket, presence of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the TMJ and stress, which can cause a person to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench the teeth.
People with Temporomandibular joint problems can experience severe pain and discomfort that can be temporary or last for many years. More women than men experience this disorder and it is seen most commonly in people between the ages of 20 and 40.
Common Symptoms from Jaw problems:
- Headaches, neck aches, dizziness, ringing in the ears, earaches and hearing issues
- Pain or tenderness in the face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when you chew, speak or open your mouth wide
- Limited ability to open the mouth very wide
- Jaws that get “stuck” or “lock” in the open- or closed-mouth position
- Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth (which may or may not be accompanied by pain)
- A tired feeling in the face, swelling on the side of the face
- Difficulty chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite as if the upper and lower teeth are not fitting together properly
Jaw problems are complex and often require multiple treatment type to aid in resolving them! Treatments such as: a night guard, acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, active release, exercises and diet changes help.
Chiropractic treatment for the Jaw (TMJ)
Chiropractic care for the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can ease pain by correcting the misalignment between the spine and nervous system. Chiropractic can be effective at reducing the pain associated with TMJ, either when used alone or as a complement to other treatments.Initial treatment for a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) can include applying heat or cold to the jaw area, eating mostly soft foods, taking anti-inflammatory drugs, or wearing a bite guard in the mouth at night. If these methods are unsuccessful, many patients resort to dental treatments to modify the bite or even surgery of the jaw. For those with TMJ symptoms, chiropractic is available as an alternative to those more invasive treatments.
An adjustment to the joint(s) can also be done by hand, using a technique that causes a tiny stretch inside the joint to release any fibrous attachments made by the body due to previous trauma. Dr. Barbara Rodwin may also give the patient home exercises to help strengthen the joint and loosen the tight muscles.
In some cases, misalignment of the jaw that results from improper posture or a back problem can cause temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. An approach to treating TMJ caused by misalignment in the neck and upper back is to perform chiropractic adjustments on the spinal joint in these areas.
Chiropractic treatment of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) focuses on relieving tension in the muscles around the joints themselves—working both outside and inside the mouth, using active release and trigger point therapy.
Do you have full movement in your jaw?
The jaw is a hinge joint connecting the mandible (jaw) to the skull and is surrounded by 68 pairs of muscles immediately in front of the ear on each side of the head. They allow you to chew, yawn, speak, and swallow and are in constant use. This joint is one of the most frequently used in the body. You can locate it by placing a finger in your ear and push forward while opening and closing your mouth. The articular disk separates the condyle head of the mandible and the skull. When this disk is misplaced it will cause Temporal Mandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ). Studies show about 35% of the North American population has TMJ disorders.
A common symptom could be having a limited range of motion within the joint. If you have TMJ, every time you open and close your mouth you put wear on the tissues of the joint. This can cause severe problems if not treated properly. . You can test the range of mobility in your jaw by holding your palm vertically with your thumb facing the ceiling. Flex your index finger so it is out of the way. Open your mouth as wide as you can without strain or pain and place the three remaining fingers (middle, ring, and pinky) between your upper and lower teeth. If you cannot fit all three fingers and you experience pain, it is possible you have TMJ. Don’t be worried if only 2 or maybe 4 fingers fit. If there is no pain and it doesn’t affect how or what you eat then, the diagnosis is probably negative.
TMJ disorders have various causes. Misaligned or missing teeth can force the bone out of its proper position. Trauma from a fall or car crash can do the same thing. Whiplash is a very common cause of TMJ. Many times stress results in a grinding of the teeth or clenching of the jaw. This can over strain the muscles and cause discomfort, tension or pain. It can affect your face, neck, and head causing various symptoms and discomfort. Similar to a kidney infection, that may cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite, or a bladder infection; TMJ may appear as various symptoms (headaches and earaches) that wouldn’t normally be considered in conjunction with it. Consult your chiropractoror dentist for an examination of these symptoms.
Massage therapy for the Jaw
A registered massage therapist takes training as well in treating the muscles of the jaw, neck and skull. The massage therapist will treat muscles in your jaw, neck, shoulders and face which can relieve the pain caused by jaw problems. There are usually many trigger points in these areas that contribute to jaw pain.
All the registered massage therapists at Back to Health Wellness Centre are trained in treating jaw-related problems.
Ask your massage therapist for details!