TMJ Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

 

Tension and stress - the two most overwhelming emotional, physical and mental conditions most of us can relate to on a daily basis. Tension headaches, the fullness of our heads, and the radiating stress from our temples down the neck and along our shoulders is oh so familiar - it’s almost accepted.

Pounding headaches, stiff neck, tight jaw or just a dull ache when we wake up - sounds familiar enough to blame the common culprits; caffeine, bad nights sleep or too much time on the computer.. But if you wake up like this regularly, and suffer more during times of stress, it might be Temporomandibular (TMJ) joint disorder, TMD and Bruxism. All affecting the Stomatognathic System, that impact our ability to focus, think and sleep.

One of the main causes is stress, or the inability to relax. If you’ve ever woken to lock jaw, or the inability to move your jaw freely, you’ll know about Bruxism - the result of grinding your teeth at unconsciously at night or even during the day causing inflammation of the joint, and in some cases swelling. Like all conditions, stress and the inability to relax causes symptoms to worsen and can lead to a cascade of symptoms.

Symptoms of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, TMJ, TMD or Bruxism

  • Debilitating headaches that radiate from your temples, above your brow and into your cheeks 

  • Accidentally biting the inside of your cheek or tongue

  • Swelling of the joint on one side of your face caused by inflammation of the joint

  • Pain talking and mobilising your jaw. 

  • A popping or creaky jaw, reduced mobility and movement with pain.

  • Vertigo and dizziness 

  • Sharp pain while chewing

  • Headaches with sensitivity to sound and light

Causes of TMJ

  • Teeth grinding, clenched jaw throughout the day

  • Bruxing at night (unconscious teeth grinding) 

  • Jaw position that might require orthodontics

  • Stress and tension

  • Misalignment of teeth, dental work causing changes in teeth

As we age TMJ can be brought on by receding teeth and facial bone structure, other things might cause TMJ as we age:

  • Accidents or Injuries impacting the jaw, neck or head can lead affect the TMJ joint

  • Tooth replacement, dental work, wearing down of teeth can impact the normal movement of the joint causing inflammation.

  • Onset of arthritis or gout affects various joints in the body, it can also impact the jaw

This can result in inflammation of the joint and swelling, affecting the way we talk, hold our mouth, and involuntary bruxing.


Treating Temporomandibular Joint Disorders, TMD and Bruxism

Stretching

To get mobility back to the Joint, gently perform these exercises to relax and release muscle tension

  • slowly open your mouth as wide as you can comfortably with your tongue in a neutral position, hold for 7seconds with slow breaths and release. Gently repeat 2-3 times.

  • Lion Pose, the Yoga pose sticking your tongue out and taking 4-6 breaths can help relieve tension in the face by stretching and strengthening the neck. Gently repeat 2-3 times.

Relaxation

As stress and tension worsen TMJ disorders, naturally reducing stress will assist in reducing flare-ups and frequencies of headaches and symptoms.

  • 10minutes of self massage around the jaw, cheeks, temples, and down the neck daily to assist tension build up

  • Keeping your mouth and jaw in a neutral ‘resting’ position throughout the day is important; your tongue should be touching the roof of your mouth, about 1/2 an inch from your teeth. Teeth should be separated slightly with lips together and your jaw should feel released.

  • Acupuncture can assist with relaxation of meridians and channels around the need and jaw and aid in long-term stress and pain management

Treatment Care

  • Osteopathy, physiotherapy and orthodontic treatments can improve the severity of conditions and work to reduce frequency and occurrence of TMJ disorders

  • Strengthening the Mouth opening muscles down the neck is important in restoring the imbalance of the overuse of Jaw closing. Resting your hand under your chin, gently resist while you try to open your mouth 2-4cm, hold for 2-3 seconds and release. repeat 5 times once daily.*

  • Mouth guards and sleeping guards can assist in reducing wearing down of teeth and bruxing however are not used as a treatment for this condition.


*Recommended by Dr Clive Carter, Osteopath at Your Health Matters, Gold Coast

This should be used as a guide only and a medical practitioner should be consulted for correct diagnosis and treatment protocol.