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Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Care

TMJ Care

TMJ dysfunction (TMD) causes pain and tenderness in your jaw joints and surrounding muscles and ligaments. Causes include teeth grinding, jaw injuries, arthritis and everyday wear and tear. TMJ treatment varies from person to person and may include medication, physical therapy, custom mouth guards and jaw surgery.

Smiling, laughing, talking, chewing — these all are facial movements you make daily with little to no thought. But, if you have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), those simple movements may cause you a lot of pain.

While most TMD symptoms resolve in a few weeks to months, some painful conditions can be aggravated by certain behaviors or harmful habits that strain jaw and neck muscles.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to relieve and help manage temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain. We at Regain Health Centre can help!

What is TMJ dysfunction?

TMJ dysfunctions are conditions affecting your jaw joints and surrounding muscles and ligaments. These conditions can cause several issues, including jaw pain, headaches and difficulty opening and closing your mouth.

You might hear people call these conditions TMJ. But “TMJ” refers to your actual jaw joint, while “TMD” stands for temporomandibular joint dysfunction. Another name is temporomandibular joint disorder.

You have two TMJs (temporomandibular joints) — one on each side of your face, just in front of your ears. Your TMJs connect your lower jawbone to your skull and help with movements like chewing and speaking.

Between 5% and 12% of the general adult population have some form of TMJ disorder. The condition is twice as common in women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB) than in men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB). People between the ages of 20 and 40 are most likely to develop TMD.

TMJ Care

Jaw Pain, TMJ and TMD

The muscles and ligaments you use to move your mouth connect to your temporomandibular joints, which is where your skull and lower jawbone meet. Temporomandibular disorders, including arthritis, dislocation, injury or infection in your TMJ, can cause painful clicking and locking in your jaw, headaches, neck pain and ringing in your ears.

For many people, TMD symptoms don’t last long, but for others, pain and discomfort when moving their facial muscles is chronic (long lasting) and can be made worse by clenching, chewing, swallowing, or grinding teeth over time.

Healthcare providers classify TMDs into three categories:

  • Disorders of your jaw joints.
  • Disorders of your chewing muscles.
  • Headaches that result from TMD.

Take notice of bad habits

You may have a few tendencies that can cause TMD pain. Such habits include:

  • Nail biting
  • Chewing cheeks and lips
  • Resting your jaw in your hand
  • Clenching your teeth
  • Grinding your teeth
  • Clenching jaw muscles pushing the tongue against your teeth
  • Take note of your daily patterns and jot them down to discuss with your physiotherapist. Keep in mind how often you do them.

Avoid certain activities and foods

Specific activities and foods can cause you to open your mouth forcefully or move your jaw in an extreme way. Try to avoid the following:

  • Yawning or yelling
  • Crunchy or hard foods
  • Taking large bites of food
  • Foods that require prolonged chewing
  • Chewing gum

What are the symptoms of TMJ dysfunction?

TMJ symptoms vary widely and may include:

  • Jaw pain.
  • Facial pain.
  • Shoulder or neck pain.
  • Stiffness in your jaw.
  • Difficulty opening or closing your mouth.
  • Jaw popping or clicking.
  • Headaches.
  • Migraines.
  • Earaches.
  • Toothache.
  • Tinnitus (ringing in your ears).
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together (malocclusion).

What questions should I ask my physiotherapist?

If you have TMJ dysfunction, here are some questions you might want to ask your physiotherapist:

  • What caused this?
  • Will it go away?
  • Do I need TMJ treatment?
  • What’ll happen if I don’t seek treatment?

Physiotherapy management of TMJ Dysfunction

We are experienced TMJ physiotherapists in the treatment of TMD can help change the course of symptoms and alleviate the pain and joint restriction (restricted mouth opening) that is common with this condition. Equally important is learning how to prevent recurrence, a core tenant of the physiotherapist’s approach to treating TMJ dysfunction.

Physiotherapy treatment for TMJ pain and dysfunction typically includes:

  • Hands-on manual therapy to restore pain-free range of motion at the TMJ, off-load the irritated TMJ disc, and enable proper gliding at the joint.
  • Hands-on soft tissue massage and stretching of tight jaw and neck muscles.
  • Training in jaw relaxation techniques to enable tight chewing muscles to release excessive tension.
  • Dry needling or acupuncture to address any trigger points in jaw muscles and reduce pain.
  • Strengthening exercises to address muscle imbalances of jaw muscles, and to correct faulty motor patterning of the jaw during opening and/or closing movements.
  • Advice on sleeping positioning, chewing patterning and diet, temporarily modifying food size or texture to decrease stress to the jaw, allowing recovery.
  • Postural strategies for decreasing strain on the jaw due to postural factors (addressing any positioning/ergonomic factors due to workstation set-up, forward head posture, etc).
  • Treatment of the neck and back (and even the pelvis in some cases!). Joint restrictions found in these areas can adversely impact the position of the jaw and movement patterns in some individuals.

TMJ dysfunction affects everyone differently. It can result in temporary discomfort or chronic jaw pain that lasts for months or even years. While the condition can be difficult to diagnose, there are treatments that can help. If you have jaw pain, headaches or other symptoms that keep you from enjoying life, call us today at (778) 366-8888 or book an appointment. We can recommend appropriate physical therapy or exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles.

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