TMJ Temporo Mandibular Joint

Temporo Mandibular Joint (TMJ): The joints between your mandible and your skull, or your jaw joint.

About 60% of the general population has symptoms of TMD at some time in their lives.

TMD has numerous causes:

  • Congenital bony malformations
  • Dental and occlusion problems
  • Direct trauma
  • Neck injuries, such as whiplash
  • Stress

TMD may be the result of a combination of relatively minor and unrelated factors.

Changes in muscle tension around the head or neck can alter the biomechanics of jaw joint opening and closing. This often leads to excessive soft-tissue loading resulting in inflammation and pain of the joint. Excessive loading and pain may also arise following some dental procedures requiring the jaw to be held open for long periods.

Some patients experience the onset of TMJ discomfort after wearing braces for some time. This is due to the change in alignment of your teeth and jaw – termed occlusion.

TMD is diagnosed through patient history & physical examination. If a physical examination suggests TMD, an X-ray of the TMJ’s may be beneficial. Your dental practitioner or physical therapist are best qualified to consult about radiographic imaging.

Signs and Symptoms of TMD:

  • Jaw discomfort and/or clicking/catching of the jaw.
  • Headaches and neck pain.
  • Pain when talking, yawning, chewing.
  • History of grinding or clenching teeth.
  • Ear Pain.

There are many causes of TMD. successful treatment depends on the type of problem you have.

Treatment may include:

  • Physical Therapy and Soft Tissue Management
    • Therapeutic modalities (ultrasound, laser, EMS) to reduce local tissue irritation.
    • Icing to decrease the inflammation and relieve the pain.
    • Neck treatment and stretching exercises along with retraining exercises for your jaw muscles.
    • If you’ve had jaw surgery the therapist may also mobilize the joints to improve jaw opening.
  • Splint Therapy
    • Dental practitioners may recommend splint therapy.
    • There are many types of splints and your dental practitioner will fit and adjust the appropriate one for your needs.
  • Orthodontics (Braces)
    • Improve the alignment of the teeth to decrease stress on the jaw.
  • Surgery
    • In some cases surgery is recommended to correct jaw alignment or to repair problems within the jaw joint itself.
  • Behavioral Modification
    • As with all illnesses, improving your diet, regular aerobic exercise, and techniques to reduce stress can be helpful in lessening the impact of TMD on your life.

Overall, your dental practitioner and physical therapist working together can identify and treat many of the issues related to your jaw function.

***This information is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. Before starting an exercise program, consult a physical therapist. All images authorized by, and copyright of Primal Picture Ltd.

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