What is TMJ? Often people will complain that they have TMJ – which of course they do, in fact they have two, as TMJ is the abbreviation for the jaw joint. What people actually mean is they have TMJ disorder where they have pain often in the face, neck, head or teeth associated with teeth clenching or grinding. TMJ disorder (TMD) or TMJ syndrome is a group of symptoms and conditions. TMD is actually a sleep movement disorder caused by chronic inflammatory damage of the joint itself or in association with sleep-disordered breathing like snoring and sleep apnoea.
Traditionally dentists have been and still are trained that TMD is caused by stress or is a bad habit! Which is not actually the case. Stress compounds and adds to an already underlying condition and why we would develop a habit that hurts our body and damages our teeth – well that’s simply ridiculous.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is formed by the mandible (lower jaw bone) joining with the temporal bone of the skull, just below and in front of the ear. You have a TMJ on each side of your face. 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 a 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 swallow, eat, speak, breath, and yawn, and as such is a focal point of a lot of muscle activity and physical forces.
The TMJs contain the highest volume of proprioceptive nerve fibres in the body. These nerve fibres are responsible for relaying information to the brain telling us where our body is time and space. The TMJ is very important in maintaining our balance and upright posture and if our TMJ is damaged in any way the body has to compensate by holding itself differently to keep that postural balance. This change is position is called compensation and can lead to pain elsewhere in the body – pain that often gets treated but not resolved as it is not the primary source of the problem. The opposite can occur too where a person could have chronic inflammation in a hip for example and due to the body compensating to keep postural balance and avoid pain it is the jaw that starts to hurt. The jaw gets dental treatment but without success (and sometimes making it worse) as the hip is never detected as being the primary issue.
The key to treating TMJ disorders properly and successfully, lies in the ability to diagnose whether the jaw joints are the primary cause or not and this is why a holistic approach is so essential.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
The TMJ is connected to the body particularly the neck and spine, which are responsible for supporting the weight of your head. Any problems or discomfort in the TMJs can cause structural imbalances or health problems in another part of the body.
It’s like having a twisted ankle – when you walk you naturally adjust your stride to avoid making the ankle worse. In doing so, you place more stress upon the ankle, knee, and hip of the other leg because your body weight is unevenly distributed. Your body has to twist and turn and muscles have to work harder to support this uneven spread of weight. This causes your spine to twist and kink and your hips and shoulders to be unevenly positioned. Muscles go into spasm and become painful and can even impinge nerves. This causes discomfort to travel up your spine and before you know it you have a pain in your neck and jaw– all from a twisted ankle.
You can imagine if that was to go on a long term and your ankle never got fixed you would start to develop some serious structural and chronic pain issues.
Just like the twisted ankle, 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 difficulty 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.
And this is where our unique system of diagnostic tests and neurological evaluations can help us determine the exact origin of your condition so you get the right treatment and optimal care.
If you suspect that you have a problem with your TMJ, or you have many health concerns that are difficult to find the cause of, please contact us for an appointment and a case evaluation.
Causes of TMJ Pain
At Evolve Dental Healing, we have a holistic approach to treating TMJ disorders and pain. Dr Rachel Hall has extensively trained in TMJ disorders, sleep and headaches and is able to screen you and neurologically evaluate your condition to detect the source of your problem. We work very closely with allied health practitioners as well as sleep physicians and ENT specialists to provide an effective, lasting solution to your health care problems.
The first step is a comprehensive evaluation and diagnostic studies to see if your symptoms are truly a jaw problem or if they are coming from another part of the body to ensure we have the correct diagnosis.
If you truly have TMJ dysfunction Dr Rachel Hall will provide you with a course of treatment including jaw orthotics that place your jaw in a healing position and lifestyle recommendations to reduce and address systemic inflammation which helps to improve your rate of recovery and healing so you see results faster.
We can also make orthotics that treat sleep apnoea, snoring and sleep breathing disorders.
At Evolve Dental Healing our emphasis is the non-surgical treatment to reduce inflammation of the TMJs and to place the jaw in a position of ease so as to reduce stress on the TMJs to allow the body to repair and heal itself.
To find out and treat the cause of your TMJ and improve your health today, call us to make an appointment on 07 3720 1811.