Tempromandibular Disorder (TMD) refers to problems that stem from issues with either the jaw, the muscles in the face surrounding the jaw or the jaw joint known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
The jaw or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jaw bone to your skull. The joints are flexible, allowing the jaw to move smoothly up and down and side to side. The TMJ allows you to talk, chew and yawn. Muscles attached to and surrounding the jaw control the position and movement of the jaw. Pain can be experienced in and around the jaw from the cartilage covering the joint, it ligaments, disc or muscles. Often as a result, there is a dysfunction in movement.

TMJ disorders can occur if:

–       The disk erodes or moves out of its proper alignment

–       The join’s cartilage is damaged by arthritis

–       The joint is damaged by a blow or other impact

Unfortunately, the cause of TMD is not black and white and symptoms could arise from problems with the TMJ and/or the muscles responsible for jaw movement. Whiplash, blunt force and any other trauma involving the neck or head can cause TMD. Also, bruxism (teeth grinding/clenching of jaw) habits can put unusual pressure on the TMJ resulting in TMD.

The TMJ has an inter-articular disc which separates the joint cavity into two and it is made of fibrocartilage allowing a certain degree of trauma and regeneration. The TMJ functions for so many of our daily activities, the most significant of which is eating which requires tremendous leverage and strength. It is the disc that is often the bane of most the TMJ pain.  It is the structure most likely to be giving the clicking sound that patients hear when chewing. This occurs as a result of disc displacement. The disc can be displaced at various places along its length and this can interfere with the smooth gliding of the mandible on the articular surface of the temporal bone. The most common problem is for the disc to be displace medially as a result of the action of the masseter muscle (the main chewing muscle) straining and lengthening the lateral TMJ ligaments and allowing excessive medial movement.

Problems with any part of normal jaw function can quickly become annoying, painful and in severe cases, even prevent a person from being able to eat. TMJ disorder can occur on either one side or on both sides of the jaw. The symptoms can either be temporary or chronic. The following is a list of common symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorders:

  • Audible pops or clicks with jaw movements such as speaking or chewing
  • Unable to open mouth as wide as it should be able to or limited jaw movement
  • Jaw gets locked/stuck in place
  • Chewing is not a fluid movement, i.e. feeling of jaw catching or bumping
  • Face feels weak or tired, especially after eating a meal or having prolonged conversation
  • Pain in the face, jaw joint, teeth, ears, neck or shoulders
  • Swelling on one or both sides of the face
  • Headaches/dizziness
  • Other common symptoms include neck pain, hearing problems and ringing in the ears (tinnitus).

Osteopathic medicine is a great choice to treat temporomandibular joint disorders because a skilled osteopath can examine a patient with TMJ complaints and likely find and fix the root of the problem. Other areas, which can often be associated with TMJ disorder and treated, are the neck, shoulders and upper back.

Self Management

–       eating soft foods

–       avoiding hard and crunchy foods (like hard rolls and raw carrots), chewy foods (like chewing gum and steak) and larger foods (like apples).

–       avoid clenching

–       avoid extreme movements

–       wearing a night guard can help, if grinding is known to occur.

–       Stretching exercises for the jaw and neck

–       Strengthening exercises for the jaw

If you have jaw pain or TMJ disorder, make an appointment with one of our osteopaths or if you have any further questions please contact us (416) 546-4887