The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your lower jaw (mandible) to your skull.
The TMJ lies on both sides of your head, right in front of your ears. The TMJ works like a sliding hinge. It allows the opening and closure of your jaws, giving you the space and allowance to eat and speak.
Some authorities use “TMJ” to refer to several health conditions that affect your jaw. But a more common abbreviation for this condition is “TMJD” or “TMD” (1). The D stands for disorder or dysfunction.
TMJD can cause:
· Facial pain
· Tenderness at the joint
· Difficulty in moving the joint
A study by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (2) shows that over 10 million Americans suffer from TMJ disorders. Furthermore, these conditions tend to be more common among women than men.
These disorders can be treated, but there are many different causes, and that’s why diagnosis is usually tricky.
The symptoms of TMJD depend on the cause of your condition and the severity. However, the most typical sign is pain in the jaw and the surrounding muscles.
A 2021 study (3) shows that the following symptoms are usually associated with these disorders:
· Pain that can be felt in the neck or face
· Stiffness in the jaw muscles
· Locking of the jaw
· Limiting of jaw movement
· Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
· Popping or clicking sound from the affected site
· Jaw shifts, changing the alignment of the upper and lower teeth (malocclusion)
Some symptoms may show up on only one side of the face. However, in some cases, they show up on both sides.
The causes are not known in most cases. Trauma to the joint or jaw may contribute. Other health conditions involved in the onset of TMJ disorders include:
· Growth disorders
· Habitual clenching or grinding of the teeth
· Erosion of the joint
· Foundational Shift of the upper spine
The following factors are associated with the onset of TMJ disorders. However, there is no proof that they directly cause TMJ disorders.
Some of these risk factors include:
· Prolonged stress
· Female hormones (estrogen is believed to contribute to the development of TMJ)
· Joint hypermobility
· Poor posture that strains the neck and face muscles
People that are diagnosed with TMJ disorders usually experience jaw pain. The pain may radiate into the neck or face, limit the range of motion, and in some cases, crack when you are moving the jaw.
If an individual has a history of trauma, such as whiplash, slip on ice, concussion, or a car accident, these traumas can cause a shifting of the upper neck from its normal position beneath the skull. The shift may cause postural deviations, including shoulder imbalance and head tilt. And because the skull makes up one-half of the temporomandibular joint, shifting or tilting the skull on top of the atlas bone will trigger muscular stress and imbalances that result in an uneven bite.
Shifted vs. Normal
From a neurological point of view, the jaw is controlled by the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve is the 5th of 12 cranial nerves that regulate sensory input from the face and motor output from the brain.
The trigeminal cervical nucleus (the part of the trigeminal nerve that extends into the neck) is believed to play a role in neck problems and TMJD.
Physical and mental trauma causes the neck bones and the skull to shift out of the normal position. This shift pulls on the nerves and spinal cord that passes through those bones. The stretching or tethering forces exerted on the spinal cord from that shift irritate the trigeminal cervical nucleus resulting in dysfunction and pain in the jaw joint.
At Foundation Chiropractic, we call this a Foundational Shift of the spine. We will use precise, targeted adjustments custom-designed for the upper neck and objective diagnostic measurements to correct the Foundational Shift induced by past trauma.
TMJ disorder (TMJD) may not be preventable. Still, you can reduce the symptoms by reducing your stress levels, especially if you are a chronic teeth grinder at night (bruxism) and working with a chiropractor that focuses on the primary condition with upper cervical chiropractic corrections.
Do you suffer from TMJD or know someone who does?
Disclaimer: Dr. Berner does not diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical diseases or conditions; instead, he analyzes and corrects the structure of his patients with Foundational Correction to improve their overall quality of life. He works with their physicians, who regulate their medications. This blog post is not designed to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or services to you or any other individual. The information provided in this post or through linkages to other sites is not a substitute for medical or professional care. You should not use the information in place of a visit, consultation, or the advice of your physician or another healthcare provider. Foundation Chiropractic and Dr. Brett Berner are not liable or responsible for any advice, the course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other information, services, or product you obtain through this article or others.
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