The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are used for many daily activities such as swallowing, chewing, talking, yawning, and sneezing. The two bones that form the TMJ are located on each side of the cranium. Below is the mandible, or jaw, and above is the temporal bone which is part of the skull. The inferior and the superior spaces of the joint are divided by a connecting disc.
A relatively common disorder called temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) frequently avoids detection. The professionals at RPI Therapy Services have been trained to spot TMD by looking for symptoms like pain emanating from the joints, inability to open and closes one’s jaw, misaligned teeth that distort biting action, clicking or popping noises during chewing, and headaches. It is likely that we can correct TMD with fairly routine, noninvasive procedures. However, we strongly recommend that you consult with a dental health professional for a second opinion and diagnosis since there is a chance that different conditions have overlapping or matching symptoms.
The Physiology and Dysfunctions of the Temporomandibular Joint
The muscles of the TMJ are also called the muscles of mastication, and each component of this grouping must work in tandem in order to work properly and avoid injury. This symbiotic relationship provides us with routine movements such as chewing and talking which require up and down movement, and even when trying to move the jaw and muscles laterally in a left and right motion. Dysfunction may be noted when you are unable to take a bite from a sandwich, or open wide enough to sip from a water bottle. Your mouth should be able to comfortably open wide enough to permit normal eating and talking. If not, your decreased range of motion may indicate a hypomobile TMJ.
The muscles located in the TMJ area permit the mandible to move in such a way as to provide chewing and speaking functionality. Dysfunction caused by miscued muscles that work asynchronously cause muscle spasms, pain and inflammation.
The most common dysfunctions associated with the TMJ are inflammation, muscle imbalances, hypomobility, and hypermobilty. Some other possibilities include:
- Trauma to the joint–blow to the jaw or head
- Excessive stress to the joint from gum chewing, fingernail biting, yawning, chewing on a pen, chewing on ice, and grinding teeth
- Arthritis of the TMJ
- Dislocation of the disc
- Myofascial pain dysfunction
- Postural abnormalities, especially with a forward head posture
- Whiplash injury
- Birth/Congenital trauma
Symptoms of TMJ dysfunction may involve:
- Uncomfortable bite
- Clicking or popping with opening or closing
- Dry or burning sensation in mouth
- Pain at rest or with opening/closing of jaw
- Decreased ability to open the jaw (hypomobility)
- Neck pain
- Hearing loss
- Tooth sensitivity
- Forehead or temple headache
- Buzzing or ringing in ears
Physical Therapy Prescriptions may include education on diet modification, habit modification, dental appliances, positioning, stress management, posture modification, therapeutics, modalities, trigger point dry needling, myofascial release, and joint mobilization.
Patients will need a prescription from their physician, with treatments lasting from 6 to 12 sessions.