TMJ Treatment To Prevent Jaw Pain
The Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that is found between the Mandible (the jaw) and the portion of your skull called the Temporal bone. This joint allows the jaw to move up and down, side-to-side, forward and backward. These are all the jaw motions that are necessary for biting, chewing, swallowing food, speaking or making facial expressions.
Similar to the discs in your spine, the TMJ also includes a disc, or meniscus which acts as a cushion between the bones. Because of all of the different muscles that act on the joint, along with all of the movements that are possible, it is one of the more complex joints found in the body.
People that are experiencing jaw pain will often simply say that they have TMJ but more accurately, they are describing TMD which stands for Temporomandibular dysfunction. Everyone has a TMJ, but not everyone will experience dysfunction or pain with their joint.
When the joint is not functioning properly, it often presents as pain in the joint possibly along with clicking, popping or in more involved cases, locking or fixation of the jaw in either the open or closed position. If left untreated, the facial muscles can become painfully tight and the joint itself can become arthritic and more chronic in nature.
It is not uncommon to find some level of TMD when evaluating patients that have complaints of neck pain and/or headaches. In addition to pain in the joint, other symptoms might include: earache, ‘fullness’ in the ear, dizziness or vertigo, and sinus problems.
Similar to other spinal issues, factors that can lead to a painful TMJ can be from injury to the joint itself or to the neck which causes improper muscle function leading to TMD. Another very important cause not only to TMD but how your body functions as a whole is stress.
Often we find that stress causes people to hold their jaw in a clenched position during the day and can lead to bruxism (grinding of the teeth) at night while sleeping. Habits such as nail biting, excessive gum chewing, taking too large of a bite while eating or even being a stomach-sleeper with your head turned can also be factors that will need to be addressed when treating this problem.
Depending on the severity of the problem one is experiencing, this is something that can often be addressed with chiropractic treatment, but in some occasions may need to be co-managed by a dentist who can provide an orthotic that will need to be worn to aid in the proper alignment of the joint.