Many of us know of a friend or family member who has had a hip or knee replacement. Because these joints significantly affect mobility, they can also affect the balance in structural movement elsewhere in the body. Like hip and knee joints, the TMJ (temporo-mandibular jaw) joints are influential in the proper function of other areas.
The TMJ joints are located in front of the ears and are structured to move with ease in a sliding motion. When functioning properly, the TMJ serves as a hinge that connects the jaw to the skull, ensuring a fluid motion when chewing, speaking, yawning or anytime the mouth opens.
These joints are protected by cartilage and cushioned with a shock-absorbing disk. This keeps the joints in working shape throughout your lifetime. When a TMJ disorder emerges (often from bite misalignment), the joints can become worn, stressed or strained.
When jaw joints are not moving properly in their sockets, a number of issues can result. TMJ disorders can also cause pain even when the jaw is not moving. Problems include:
• Painful or tender jaw joints
• Frequent headaches or migraines
• Ear aches or ear ringing
• Discomfort or difficulty chewing
• Facial muscle pain
• Difficulty opening the mouth fully
• Clicking sound when opening the mouth
When the upper teeth do not meet the lower teeth in a harmonious fashion, this creates strain and stress on the TMJ joints. As occurs with the dysfunction of other joints in the body, there is a domino effect with other joints, muscles and the skeletal structure. People who have jaw joint disorders may clench or grind their teeth during sleep, common symptoms of bite misalignment.
While TMJ disorders most commonly occur in women between the ages 20 – 40, they can arise for both genders and at any age. The disorder may be aggravated by arthritis or an injury to the jaw (even injuries that date back many years). However, since problems like headaches and ear aches are not typically associated with jaw joints, TMJ disorder is often overlooked as the source.
Symptoms of bite misalignment are those commonly listed above. In some cases, chipped teeth or teeth that are worn down or fractured are telltale signs of an improper bite.
In our office, we take a number of steps to first assess if TMJ disorder is the source of your problems. If so, appropriate treatment recommendations are made to resolve the problem without over-treating or under-treating.
If you suspect TMJ disorder may be an issue, schedule a free consultation. During this time, I’ll explain the diagnosis process and common treatments. Call 910-254-4555.