Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ Pain)

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ Pain)
February 4, 2012 No Comments » Head, Managing Common Conditions, Rehabilitation Brian Fulton


This title is a real mouthful isn’t it? (chuckle, chuckle) This is why you hear people refer to it as TMJ dysfunction. The temporomandibular joint is the joint formed by your jaw (mandible) and the temporal bone of your skull. As with any joint in the body, if problems develop with alignment or wear, pain syndromes begin to develop. If you experience problems with this joint you may experience any of the following symptoms:

    • Chronic recurring headaches
    • Clicking, popping or grating sound in the jaw joints
    • Earaches, congestion or ringing ears
    • Limited jaw opening or locking
    • Pain when chewing
    • Difficulty in closing the teeth together
    • Teeth grinding or clenching
    • Tired, tight jaws

Other symptoms can also include, pain behind the eyes, dizziness, difficulty in swallowing difficulty or pain in the tongue, gums or cheek muscles. Diagnosis of TMD depends upon the nature and severity of the problem. The evaluation of hard tissues may be accomplished using x-rays and CT scans. Soft tissue is evaluated using MRIs, Joint Vibration Analysis (JVA) and electromyography (EMG) and palpation (feeling the joint as you open and close your mouth). Jaw movements are documented using the Jaw Tracker (JT). Occlusion is evaluated using the T-Scan. Suffice it to say, “don’t try to diagnose this at home boys and girls.” Your dentist is usually your fist contact when experiencing TMD, but he or she may then refer you off to other specialists. TMD can be a very complex syndrome caused by many things such as previous trauma (eg. whiplash), misalignment of teeth (malocclusion), grinding of the teeth (bruxism). As well, stress and some diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis can cause damage to joint surfaces. Of all possible causes, physical trauma is considered the leading cause of TMD (40% to 99% according to the Journal of American Dental Association).

Treatment of TMD will depend upon the cause of course, but most dentists will first examine your bite to be sure that the teeth are making proper contact. Next, no matter what the cause, pain relief is usually a goal. While pain medication may achieve some level of relief, massage can give dramatic relief of symptoms. To treat this condition your therapist will work all mouth muscles, as well as many facial and neck muscles as well. Relief is typically immediate with the patient experiencing less pain and more jaw movement, depending upon the physical condition of the joint surfaces. Homecare typically involves gentle jaw stretching and relaxation exercises you can do on your own to help relax the jaw muscles.

Finally, the root cause needs to be determined. Your dentist, family doctor, or specialist will be the person to make this diagnosis. Treatment often involves use of a stabilization splint (night guard) or mandibular repositioning device.  There are other more invasive treatments, but they are typically reserved for cases of advanced joint disease. If you are experiencing TMD symptoms, contact your dentist to determine the cause and proper course if treatment.

If you are interested in a holistic approach, Dr. David Rawson at SouthWest Wellness Centre, 2083 Wharncliffe Road South, London, Ontario N6P 1R1, Telephone: (519) 652-1067  . David deals specifically with TMD, and all of his approaches are non surgical.

TMJ pain, like most dental pain can be very intense, and can greatly interfere with one’s quality of life. If you are experiencing TMJ pain, you don’t need to live with it. There are pain management solutions out there.

About The Author
Brian Fulton Brian Fulton has been a Massage Therapist in Ontario Canada since 1999. His approach toward health and the human body is broad and holistic in nature. Brian is also the author of The Placebo Effect in Manual Therapy: Improving Clinical Outcomes (available on Amazon)