What is the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)?
The TMJ is located directly in front of your inner ear, below your temple, and is a part of the body we use many times during the day when we talk, yawn, eat, drink or chew. Usually, you are only aware of this joint when it becomes painful.
What causes TMJ Dysfunction?
The pain and tenderness of TMJ dysfunction can be caused by various factors. The most common causes of TMD include:
- Masticatory muscle dysfunction,
- Derangement/displacement of TMJ articular disc
- Bruxism: nocturnal grinding of teeth leads to increased pressure in TMJ and asymmetrical movement.
- Occlusal Problems: Poor bite, Asymmetrical or Retrognathic (underbite, overbite)
Symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction
The pain of TMJ dysfunction can be sharp, searing and catching, or dull and constant. It can be extremely debilitating
Other symptoms include:
- Ear pain, or fullness of the ears
- Facial pain
- Sore, tight, tender jaw muscles
- Temple, cheek, tooth or jaw pain while swallowing, yawning, talking or chewing
- Jaw popping, clicking or locking upon opening or closing, or while chewing
- Reduced ability to fully open or close the mouth
- Frequent headaches or neck aches
- Muscle pain and spasms in the face, head and neck
- Ringing in the ears
Contributory factors include:
- Removal of wisdom teeth,
- Prolonged mouth opening eg dental procedure,
- Poor cervical posture,
- Myofascial pain,
- Neuropsychological factors,
- Stress, and
- Whiplash and other less common causes include: trauma (e.g., blow to the chin), infection, polyarthritis conditions, tumors, and anatomical abnormalities
Physiotherapy and TMJ Treatment - Are there treatment options?
Fortunately, a trained Physiotherapist can help by teaching you relaxation, stretching and strengthening exercises for the face, head and neck muscles. These exercises can also help to augment the effect of the appliance or mouth guard your dentist may have already provided to you.
What can you expect?
You will work directly with a Physiotherapist, trained through specialized courses, in the assessment and treatment of TMJ dysfunctions.