What is TMJ / TMD?
Do you ever experience a clicking or popping sound when opening or closing your mouth? Have you been suffering from headaches or migraines and no one seems to be able to help you? Have you been taking pain medicine for years and would like to get off of it? Do you feel any clogging or congestion in one or both of your ears? These are just a few of many symptoms that might be associated with TMD, or Temporomandibular Dysfunction, a common condition affecting the jaw joint or Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ).
TMJ dysfunction, often referred to as TMD, is a disharmony between the way the jaw joint works in an unstrained position and the way the teeth and bite work during those movements. Possible causes of this disharmony include tooth loss, accidents (like whiplash), mal-positioned and/or underdeveloped cranial or jawbones, and perhaps habits like clenching or teeth grinding. Many people go through life suffering from headaches and a variety of facial and neck pains without knowing the ultimate cause, which in many cases is TMJ disorder.
TMJ or The Temporomandibular Joint
They are the two joints which connect the lower jaw to the temporal bone at the side of the head. If you place your fingers just in front of your ears and open your mouth, you can feel the joint on each side of the head. Because these joints are flexible, the jaw can move smoothly up and down and side to side, enabling us to talk, chew and yawn. When the TMJ is not functioning normally and it is not within its physiological limits, it creates a condition called TMD, or Temporomandibular Dysfunction.
TMD is a group of conditions resulting from not having a normal function or "comfortable" positioning of the TMJ, and will present as a cycle of pain, muscle spasms and jaw problems. When teeth are missing, out of alignment, crowded or misshaped, chewing and biting cannot be achieved in a balanced way, so the TMJ and the muscles of chewing try to compensate for this unbalanced movement which results in symptoms that will confirm the presence of TMD.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) is not just a disorder, but a group of conditions, often painful, that affect the jaw joint or Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) and the muscles that control chewing.
TMD falls into three main categories:
Myofascial pain, the most common form of TMD, which is discomfort or pain in the muscles that control jaw functions and the neck and shoulder muscles.
Internal derangement of the joint meaning a dislocated or displaced disc or injury to the condyle (the rounded part at the end of the jaw bone).
Degenerative joint disease such as Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis in the jaw joint. Causes of TMJ/TMD
Posture and your bite are closely related. One affects the other involving muscles in the neck, back, pelvis, and legs.
Poor posture can place unnecessary wear and tear on your joints and cause your muscles to suffer. Your teeth are what determine how your bite goes together. Your bite then determines the position of your jaw, and in turn, the position of your head on your spine.
The teeth are part of your skeletal system and if/when improperly aligns, there is often a compensating effect on the rest of your body. The human body will adjust itself, involving the muscles in the neck, back, and even those of the pelvis, legs, and feet. Most postural problems can be improved at any age, yet the longer the problem exists, the more difficult it will be to correct.
Symptoms of a poorly postured bite include:
- Numbing or tingling sensation in the hand
- Pain in the jaw, head, neck, shoulders, back
- Difficulty clearing the ears
- One shoulder being higher than the other
- Breastbone muscles feel tender to the touch- Pant legs must be hemmed to different lengths
- Heels wear unevenly
The NTI-TSS System is a type of mouth guard that is placed on the patient's upper teeth. This lets the lower jaw rest in its proper place and causes the teeth to subside from being able to clench together.
If you experience chronic headaches, please ask your doctor because the NTI-TSS System could work for you.
Bite splints (plates) are effective in relieving TMD symptoms.
A bite splint provides an acrylic platform to bite against. Some bite plates move the mandible to a new position.
Generally, splints are worn part-time and for most people night time seems to be the best time to wear them.