The Tempromandibular joint or TMJ is the joint between the mandible (jaw bone) and the skull. Tempromandibular disorders (TMDs) are a group of painful conditions that affect the TMJ and the muscles that control jaw movement. One or both sides of the jaw may be effected and have an influence on a ability to speak, eat, chew, swallow, make facial expressions or even breathe.
The symptoms of TMD can vary from pain and clicking immediately around the joint when talking, chewing or yawning to:
- Facial pain
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Tinnitus or altered hearing
- Dry throat and difficulty swallowing
- Blurred vision and sensitivity to light
In severe cases of joint derangement locking of the jaw may even present on opening or closing. Painful trigger points develop in many of the overactive muscles, which may refer pain to other areas of the body. TMD effects women twice as often as men and is most prevalent between the ages of 20-40years.
There are many possible and often multifactorial causes of TMD including:
- Clenching and bracing.
- Stress related tooth grinding.
- Poor alignment of teeth.
- Poor postural habits.
- As a result of extended periods of mouth opening during dental work.
- Initial treatment of TMD usually involves heat and anti inflamatory medication to reduce symptoms
- Tissue release, stretching, joint mobilisations and acupuncture can be used to restore normal joint mechanics
- Exercises to retrain the muscles of the jaw and postural muscles of the neck and shoulder
- Referral to a dentist to provide night splint or correct alignment of the teeth is not uncommon
- Techniques to assist in management of parafunctional activity such as clenching and grinding