TMJ (Temporomandibular joint) Dysfunction

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is formed by the mandible or jawbone joining with the temporal bone of the skull, just below and in front of the ear. Each joint has a cartilage disc inside keeping the temporal bones and the mandible bone apart to prevent the bone surfaces from wearing and damaging each other, as well as to act as shock absorber for the joint. The jaw joint is surrounded by a capsule or envelope enclosing it.

The TMJ is opened and closed thousands of times each day as we eat, speak, breath, and yawn, and is thus the focal point of much activity and physical forces. Jaw movement is driven by many muscles connected to the skull and the neck, which are responsible for its different actions. Additionally the muscles involved in keeping the jaw in a rest position have a direct connection to the neck. Therefore in diagnosing a TMJ disorder it is important to look at the neck and areas of the body that may affect the neck.

Symptoms

Common TMJ disorder symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Ringing in ears
  • Jaw pain
  • Back pain
  • Face pain
  • Ear pain/stuffiness
  • Neck ache
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Clenching/grinding
  • Fatigue
  • Shoulder pain

A problem in your TMJ can cause multiple, seemingly unrelated problems. While some symptoms can be easily traced back to the jaw joint – such as difficultly or pain in biting and chewing, clicks and grating noises from your jaw, or pain in your jaw or face – other symptoms, like neck back, knee, and shoulder pain, sinus pain, pain behind the eye, or ringing in the ears, may make it less obvious that the TMJ is the root cause of the problem.

Causes

Discomfort or pain in the TMJ can have many causes:

  • Trauma to the TMJ or surrounding muscles and tissues from a sporting injury, car accident or other physical incidents.
  • Misaligned bite from uneven teeth, incorrect positioning of the jaw, or loss of bite height.
  • Daytime clenching of the jaw and nighttime grinding of teeth while asleep(referred to as bruxism). The underlying cause of nighttime grinding is often sleep apnoea.
  • Stresses on other areas of the skeletal system, e.g. neck.

All too often, the foundation of the problem will be a combination of many different causes, which are all interacting and exasperating each other.

Treatment

Treatment options depend on the cause(s) of the temporomandibular disorder.

  • Palliative treatment and medications may be prescribed.
  • OCCLUSAL ORTHOTICS (muscle relaxation appliances/splint therapy) may be utilized.
  • Occasionally we may refer to an orthodontist, chiropractor or physical therapist as well.

 

Call us to schedule a consultation to discuss your symptoms and possible treatment options.
Dr. Link has many years of experience treating TMJ problems.

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