Does it hurt when you chew, open wide to yawn or use your jaws? Do you have pain or soreness in front of the ear, in the jaw muscle, cheek, the teeth or the temples? Do you have pain or soreness in your teeth? Do your jaws make noises loud enough to bother you or others? Do you find it difficult to open your mouth wide? Does your jaw ever get stuck/locked as you open it?
If you answered “yes” to some of these questions, you may have a temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD, which is also commonly referred to as TMJ. TMD is a group of conditions, often painful, that affect the jaw joint.
Signs of TMD or TMJ may include:
- Radiating pain in your face, neck, or shoulders
- Limited movement or locking of your jaw
- Difficulty opening your mouth wide
- Pain when you chew or yawn
- Painful and/or loud clicking or grating when you open or close your mouth
- Pain or soreness in front of your ear, or in your jaw muscle, cheek, teeth, or temples
- A noticeable change in the way your upper and lower teeth fit together
- Headaches, earaches, dizziness, difficulties hearing or swallowing
If you currently have or regularly experience any of the above problems, we can help to identify whether it is actually TMD as very often patients that suffer from TMD respond amazingly well to chiropractic adjustments.
TMD experts categorize the condition in three ways:
- Myofascial pain that affects the jaw, neck, and shoulders. (Myofascial refers to the muscles and their connective tissue, not the face. So this literally means muscle pain)
- Dislocation of the jaw or displacement of the jaw joint disc (Ouch!)
- Degenerative joint disease, meaning rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis in the jaw joint
A physical insult or injury to the jaw is a major cause of TMD. This may be in the form of a knock while playing sport, a punch, or simply through overuse syndromes such as excessive gum-chewing, or significantly favoring one side of the mouth over the other when chewing. Again these are the reasons that TMD or TMJ sufferers often respond so well to chiropractic adjustments, because these same traumas can cause spinal subluxations.
Extended periods of physical stress can also lead to TMD. For example, sitting in a dentist’s chair with your mouth wide open for hours, although most dentists are aware of this problem and schedule breaks for the patient, or screen them prior to treatment for any jaw joint issues. Many dentists now recognize the benefit of chiropractic adjustments for these patients and will encourage them to see their chiropractor after their dental visit. Just think of how your neck felt after your last dental checkup – I couldn’t wait to see my chiropractor!
Emotional stress can also contribute to TMD, although it is not in itself a cause. When a person is stressed and reacts physically through repeated teeth clenching or grinding, especially when this happens unconsciously at night, TMD may develop if the stress continues to produce these physical effects for any length of time. These are the same stresses that cause the tension in the upper back and neck and will often result in the neck clicking and cracking during normal movement. Imagine what all that tension does to your nervous system and something as simple as a chiropractic adjustment can help to normalize that tension and restore normal movement and function to your spine.
Certain conditions that used to be labeled as causes of TMD are now referred to as just triggers for those who are already prone to suffer from TMD. This includes moderate gum chewing, jaw clicking that causes no pain, orthodontic treatment that does not involve excessive opening of the mouth, and upper and lower jaws that have never fitted together properly.
Women are four times more likely to experience TMD than men, which may be down to postural differences, exacerbated by high heels or it may relate to the fact that women are more prone to physical manifestation of chemical and/or emotional stressors. Of course, the chemical and emotional stress associated to the menses is often reported to manifest in physical pains such as back pain and headaches and as such may in fact become a trigger for women who are already prone to suffer from TMD. These women tend to respond extremely well to chiropractic adjustments although they are not a direct treatment for either condition they help the body and nervous system to better manage the stress of day to day life. This benefit has many women who get adjusted regularly reporting reduced frequency and intensity of TMD episodes and virtually eliminating their cycle as a TMD trigger.
If you, a family member, friend or work colleague are currently suffering or regularly suffer from the symptoms associated to TMD even if you are already receiving treatment for it having your spine and nervous system fully evaluated to determine if the spine may be involved is vitally important. The one item that many TMD experts fail to look for is problems in the spine that can be related to or a trigger for the TMD symptoms and until you get to the actual cause of the health concern you will simply be chasing the symptoms. Remember that we specialize in identifying the cause of a persons health concerns.
For Your Health,
Dr. Ted Smith and