BLOG: What is TMJ?

Understanding TMJ pain and what to do about it.

So many people have been experiencing pain in their jaw and have been told they have TMJ. Well, this term is commonly used, but it does not mean anything.

TMJ stands for temporo-mandibular joint. The joint connecting the temporal bone (temple) to your mandible(lower jaw). And guess what? Every one has it! Saying, "I have TMJ" is the same as saying, "I have a knee joint."

The person who is suffering from head and neck pain associated with TMJ has TMD, which is Temporal Mandibular Disorder, also called Cranio Mandibular Disorder.

Now, let's talk about some of the symptoms of TMD. They could include but are not limited to headache, dizziness, locked jaw, limited mouth opening, clinching, grinding, ringing in the ear, facial pain, sensitive teeth, neck pain, postural problems, ear congestion, sinus  infection and  allergies, loose teeth, nervousness and insomnia.

I know what you are thinking. Who does not have at least one of these symptoms? You are right, almost every one has one sort of TMD or another and most people do not realize that their BITE can be  the primary cause of pain and dysfunction of the head and neck. Even most medical doctors are unaware. 

However, it is so logical. Just think of it. Your upper jaw is part of your skeleton, but your lower jaw is hanging in air held by your facials muscles holding it up as far as your teeth allows a certain closure  It is pushed back and connected by a soft tissue, the disk in TMJ.

So, if your teeth did not come together properly, your lower jaw can close into your upper jaw only in a mal-aligned position, and the muscles surrounding your lower jaw can be over-extended, or compressed, as a result of a bad bite.

That causes spasm in the head and neck muscle, premature contact in teeth, excessive bite force only on certain teeth triggering spasm, (hence the sensitivity).

If your muscles are not positioned properly or are over extended, toxicity happens. When the lymph nodes – having to drain the toxins – cannot do so, infections occur. Head and neck muscles, just like any other area in your body, have nerves and vascular bodies running along to extending to lower shoulder, arms, back, on and on and on.

The photos enclosed with this article are of a patient we treated whose pain was, as she descibed it, " unbearable." I picked these photos to show you how tricky TMD van be. Her teeth are relatively straight and she has an acceptable bite to most untrained eyes.

But look closely: Her right side is lower than the left, and her teeth have a slanted angle. Now look at the after photo, teeth are longer, more vertical in place, and the right and left side of her upper jaw are parrallel horizontally. With several injectin of Botox and reconstruction of some teeth, she now is pain-free.

So, what is the solution? Find yourself a neuromuscular dentist. One who treats TMD without resorting to surgery. Surgery is the last resort and pain relievers are a temporary fix with bad side effects.

The dentist after examination will choose to do a series of treatments, orthotics (bite appliances made only in correct positioning of the jaw), bite adjustments, reconstruction of one jaw or both, Botox injections, TENSing, exercises for the jaw to name a few.

All and all, these remedies alleviates the pain by finding the preliminary cause and fixing the cause, not putting a Band-Aid on it, such as pain relievers or wearing a night guard. After all, how can a night guard alone solve your issues? You’ll still be grinding and clinching and as soon as it is out of your mouth. Your bite goes to square one. Bite guards only protect the teeth from excessive ware. They are not the treatment, only a part of the total treatment. 

I hope this article shed s a little light on the mystery of TMJ. Wishing everyone good health, and true wealth.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Dan Avery April 10, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Thanks for the explanation, Doctor. Most of us know very little about our teeth. Maybe because we can't seem them unless we look in a mirror. They are just there until they start to hurt.
arboursdentistry April 11, 2012 at 11:09 AM
Very good article doctor and information to the dental patients Thanks Arboursdentistry www.arboursdentistry.com/contactus.html


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