Jaw Problems

Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) is an umbrella term for a group of disorders that affect the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), aka the jaw, including the surrounding muscles and associated structures. You can find your TMJ by gently placing your hands on your cheeks, just in front of your ears, and opening and closing your mouth. 

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) – (circled)

Symptoms

TM disorders can cause the following symptoms:

— Jaw pain

— Issues with opening your mouth

— Creaking or clicking in the jaw

— Headaches

— Facial pain

— Neck pain

It’s also possible to experience neck pain and headaches without having any symptoms in your jaw.

Common TM Disorders

These disorders can be broken into three categories:

— Pain or discomfort of the muscles that control the jaw

— Displacement of one of the structures that make up the jaw joint

— Arthritis, which includes degenerative and inflammatory conditions that affect the joint

It’s not uncommon for people to have more than one of these at the same time. 

What Can Cause and Contribute to TM Disorders?

— Clenching your jaw, or grinding your teeth

— Misaligned teeth

— Postural problems: this can include the posture of your jaw, neck, and even your upper back

— Trauma to the jaw

— Sometimes the exact cause is unknown

How are TM Disorders Treated?

Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the TM disorder.

Your osteopath will thoroughly assess not only your jaw, but your neck, shoulders, and upper back, as these areas can impact on each other. It’s also possible that other areas of your body could be affecting your jaw too! 

Osteopathy can assist the muscular component of a TM disorder, whether it’s a simple muscle imbalance from jaw clenching or teeth grinding, or muscle imbalances due to another cause, such as misaligned teeth. 

Your osteo may perform techniques to release the tight muscles around your jaw, improve joint mobility, treat surrounding regions of the body if they are playing a role in your TM disorder, and give you stretching and/or strengthening exercises to address any muscle imbalances. 

If your TM Disorder is likely due to another underlying cause, such as misaligned teeth, your osteo may recommend that you make an appointment with another health professional, such as a dentist, as a team approach may be the best option for you.

Self-Management Strategies

Try these strategies to help relieve your jaw pain and symptoms in the short-term:

— Eat softer foods

— Ice or heat packs: applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel/cloth for 10-15 minutes at a time can help to reduce any inflammation. A heat pack can help relax the surrounding muscles

— Avoid over stretching your jaw e.g. during wide yawning and gum chewing

— Relaxation and stress reduction techniques can help prevent jaw clenching, and relax the muscles around your jaw

— Gentle stretches for your jaw, as recommended by your health professional

If you experience jaw pain or other jaw-related symptoms, or if you have neck pain or headaches that won’t seem to go away, give us a call or book online. We are always happy to help!