What is TMJ Disorder?

“TMJ Disorder” refers to any acute or chronic inflammation of the joint that connects the mandible (or jawbone) to the temporal bone.  The temporomandibular joint is essential for biting, chewing, speaking, swallowing and a variety of facial expressions.  It is also susceptible to an array of disorders related to muscles, teeth, and joints; all of which can lead to the resulting pain and inflammation identified as TMJ Disorder.

What are the symptoms of TMJ Disorder?

The most common symptom associated with TMJ Disorder is pain.  Often described as dull and aching, the pain will be mostly located around the tempomandibular joint area but, as it radiates, it can cause earaches and head aches as well.

Other symptoms include:

• A clicking or popping sound when opening or closing the jawdiagramDifficulty or discomfort with biting or chewing

• Jaw pain and tenderness

• Headaches (including migraines) and earaches, particularly when they occur in the morning

• Tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears)

What causes TMJ Disorder?

TMJ Disorder has a variety of causes including:

• Local area trauma

• Oral surgery

• Whiplash

• Arthritis

• Sinus or ear infections

• Joint pain associated with another condition

• Headaches

• Stress

• Bruxism (an unconscious and habitual clenching of the jaw and grinding of the teeth, often at night)

People who suffer from TMJ Disorder tend to have difficulty relaxing.  Holding tension in the jaw—as a response to stress, injury, or other areas of pain—will create enough chronic tension to further exacerbate the problem.

How is TMJ Disorder Treated?

work on tmjdBecause of the variety of causes, there are a variety of treatments for TMJ Disorder.  Medication may help with some arthritis and other joint disorders.  Sometimes reconstructive surgery may be necessary.  Sometimes a splint, or mouth guard, to prevent nighttime teeth grinding may be in order.  Even psychotherapy can be utilized to help patients deal with stress.

Bodywork is often beneficial when used in conjunction with other treatments.  Trigger Point and Neuromuscular therapies can significantly reduce muscle tension, Myofascial work can work out adhesions in the connective tissue and Craniosacral Therapy can significantly reduce stress.  Rolfing® Structural Integration has shown to help by improving over-all posture.  When the body is in better alignment with the force of gravity, the neck and jaw muscle tension needed to hold the head upright is greatly reduced.

Because the approach to treatment depends on the cause of the disorder, it is important to get a thorough evaluation first.  We can refer you to Dr. Anne Reid, of Mills Park Dental, for further evaluation and treatment.