The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint that connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull, which is immediately in front of the ear on each side of your head. The joints are flexible, allowing the jaw to move smoothly up and down and side to side and enabling you to talk, chew, and yawn. Muscles attached to and surrounding the jaw joint control the position and movement of the jaw.
The cause of TMD is not clear, but dentists believe that symptoms arise from problems with the muscles of the jaw or with the parts of the joint itself.
Injury to the jaw, temporomandibular joint, or muscles of the head and neck can cause TMD. Other possible causes include:
- Grinding or clenching the teeth – possibly stress
- Overuse of the joint – gum chewing, occupation, sport
- Dislocation of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket joint
- Presence of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
- Trigger points, muscle spasm
- Trauma accident, whiplash, dental work
- Posture – head forward
People with TMD can experience severe pain and discomfort that can be temporary or last for many years. More women than men experience TMD, and TMD is seen most commonly in people between the ages of 20 and 40.
Common symptoms include:
- Pain or tenderness in the face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide
- Limited ability to open the mouth very wide
- Jaws that get “stuck” or “lock” in the open – or closed-mouth position
- Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth (which may or may not be accompanied by pain) or chewing
- A tired feeling in the face
- Difficulty chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite – as if the upper and lower teeth are not fitting together properly
- Swelling on the side of the face
- May occur on one or both sides of the face
Other common symptoms of include toothaches, headaches, neck pain, dizziness, earaches, hearing issues, upper shoulder pain, and ringing in the ears (tinnitis).
Working within the client’s comfort the therapist works with gloves inside the mouth to release muscle tension and trigger points as well as increase range of motion. This treatment takes approximately 15 minutes and is in conjunction with head, neck and shoulders. If this is the first time you will have this treatment it is recommended that you book for 60 minutes to include assessment.
Depending on the severity of your condition a treatment may be recommended 1-2 times a week for 2-3 weeks then reassess.
It may be necessary to consult a dentist / doctor / physiotherapist to first diagnosis your condition. Treatment is often very effective combined with a bite plane.