The temporomandibular joint is located right in front of your ear. If you place your fingers on that spot and open your jaw, you'll likely feel that joint doing its work. It connects the jaw bone to your skull and works like a hinge as your mouth opens and closes. Known as one of the most complicated joints in the human body, it is responsible for many vital functions. Think of it as a hinge that connects the skull and jawbone -- pursing your lips, smiling, pouting, chewing, and talking are made possible through the use of this joint.
However, some people develop a disorder with this joint, known as TMJ disorder. Sufferers can experience several various symptoms, but it is fairly easy for a medical professional to diagnose a disorder. Symptoms typically include:
- Tenderness, discomfort, or pain around your ear or jaw itself.
- Aching sensation while chewing.
- Popping or clicking noises when opening your jaw.
- The jaw’s hinge shifting when opening the mouth.
- Shifting of the jaw hinge when opening your jaw.
- Stiff muscles around the temporomandibular region.
- General tension or discomfort around the temporomandibular region.
Clicks and noises are fairly common incidents. This one possible symptom rarely causes concern unless the other two primary symptoms of TMJ disorder, limited or restricted jaw motion and facial pain, are also present.
In more severe cases, this may also contribute to head and neck pain, which can result in another host of symptoms. At Chase Cranialorthopedic Center, we believe in treating the root cause rather than simply treating symptoms. As part of our neuromuscular physiology treatment, we understand that the jaw and bite contribute to many instances of head and neck pain -- we analyze the full picture rather than simply applying band-aids to symptoms.
The professionals at Chase Cranialorthopedic Center believe that it is important to find and treat the root cause of any problem rather than focusing on treatment of symptoms. Neuromuscular physiology treatment includes recognizing improper jaw and bite performance lead to neck and head pain. Analyzing the entire situation and determining the best steps for treatment leads to resolution of the cause and a successful cure.
During the examination the doctor will feel the head, neck, and jaw area searching for discomfort and tender areas. Sounds from the jaw can be detected by listening or with a stethoscope. The patient is asked to open their mouth. This step lets the doctor observe problems such as jerky or difficult movements.
Most sufferers don't require treatment, though that prognosis should be advised by a medical professional. In these cases, the sufferer does not have limited movement or excessive discomfort due to their disorder. Sometimes someone experiencing dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint may only have symptoms once in awhile; they may appear and disappear, come and go.
Likewise, those experiencing one or several symptoms of the disorder may not have a disorder at all. There is an expected level of discomfort with the jaw due to its very heavy role in our daily lives -- much like a runner with tender leg joints after a long jog. If you feel that your discomfort is impeding with your day-to-day activities such as talking, chewing, even yawning, we advise you to see a medical professional.
In severe cases, where there is excessive pain and/or limited jaw movement, the patient may require surgery to address the issue and restore proper jaw function. Because the temporomandibular joint is so complex and is still under heavy research by doctors and scientists, surgery does not guarantee that it will fully fix the problem, though it may relieve pain and discomfort associated with the disorder.
There is no universal method to diagnose this condition. Doctors are still learning its causes and symptoms. As the professionals in the fields of neuromuscular physiology continue to learn and advance in understanding regarding this very complicated joint, more treatments and prevention methods will become available. At Chase Cranialorthopedic Center, we are committed to advancing these areas of functional dentistry.
If everyday activities such as eating, yawning, and speaking are being infringed on by pain and interference from TMJ, it is important to be examined and treated by a medical professional. There is seldom a need for surgery - although it may help relieve some of the problems associated with TMJ, it may not necessarily fix it completely.
Following a healthy lifestyle is one way to treat some of the discomfort caused by TMJ, though medical attention may be required for full recovery. Dr Chase might suggest the following in an effort to alleviate your pain during and after treatment or surgery:
- Use good posture.
- Eat healthier foods.
- Learn and follow proper methods of lifting, sitting, and moving.
- Regular exercise.
- Practice stress-management, which helps relax your jaw and tense muscles.
We Can Help You
Research continues to be a priority in this field because of the ongoing occurrences of TMJ disorders and the common similarities to other problems. Chase Cranialorthopedic Center is part of the proactive move towards better understanding the complex joint. Preventive methods and better treatments continue to improve for this part of functional dentistry.
If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms related to TMJ, please give us a call at (707) 595-4188. Even if we see that this is not the issue, we'll assess your condition thoroughly as a part of our head and neck pain treatment. Many people go most of their lives neglecting treatment, and they wish they got treatment sooner after seeking our care and expertise. Please feel free to give us a call, and we'll be happy to answer any questions you have about head, neck, and jaw pain. There is no rationale for suffering because you are uncertain about what steps can be taken to provide care and solutions.