The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is where the lower jaw bone connects to the skull. It's found in front of the ears, in the mid-lower region of the face.
The joint allows smooth movement of the jaw while eating or talking.
However, trauma, regular use, wisdom teeth, and a whole host of other impacting factors can damage the joint, muscles, and tendons, leading to TMJ Disorders (TMD).
TMJ disorders can be classified into different conditions, but many of them have the same symptoms. These include one or more of the following:
- Pain or tenderness in the jaw area
- Pain around the ears
- Uncomfortable / painful chewing motion
- Unexplained pain in the face
- Clicking / locking of the TMJ
- Difficulty opening / closing the mouth
Other symptoms may be present, depending on the specific TMJ disorder you are suffering.
Causes of TMJ Disorders
You may suffer from TMD due to any of the following reasons:
- Trauma; whiplash, any head injury, or blow to the jaw can cause damage to the skull or jaws.
- Stress; teeth grinding or clenching is a common side effect of stress and can be a cause of TMD. Even without teeth grinding, some patients still experience TMJ problems due to fatigue.
- Oral Habits; nail biting, chewing ice, grinding teeth, thumb-sucking, or resting the chin on the hands can contribute to TMJ disorders.
- Intubation; if you were hospitalized and a tube was inserted in your throat, the tube may have applied too much force on your jaw, causing pain and discomfort.
- Overworked Jaw; chewing gum too frequently can strain the jaw and cause pain. If you work in an industry or engage in activities where your head and neck is often shaking (e.g. using a jackhammer), you also may experience TMD.
- Hypermobility; teens, particularly girls, tend to be hypermobile due to changes in hormones, making the jaws more movable and prone to injury and dislocation.
- Arthritis; can affect any joint, including the jaw joint.
TMD Treatments Available At Alpers
- Splint; a bite splint or night-guard is used to support, balance and align the jaw with the skull.
- Botox; injections can help relax specific muscle reduce the pain associated with TMJ disorders.
- Orthodontics; if alignment of the teeth is the problem, orthodontic braces can be used to fix it.
- Restorative Dentistry; in cases when a missing tooth or unevenly shaped teeth is causing TMD, restoration of those teeth can help relieve the pain.
- Craniosacral Therapy; this therapeutic method is focused on allowing better circulation of spinal fluids to promote smoother joint movement.