The jaw joint is located just in front of the ear canal, and it joins the jaw bone to the skull near the temple. If you put your finger on your face just in front of the ear canal then open and close your mouth, you’ll be able to feel the joint moving. The jaw joint is also called the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). There is a disc in this joint just like in your back and there are muscles attached to the joint which make it move.
If you are having problems with this joint what would you notice?
You may notice all of some of the following:
- Pain in the joint area or nearby. The pain is usually located just in front of the ear, and it may spread to the cheek, the ear itself, and to the temple giving you a headache.
- Jaw movements may be reduced. This may be a general tight feeling or a sensation of the jaw getting stuck. Very rarely, the jaw may get ‘locked’, causing difficulty in opening or closing the mouth.
- Clicks or noises can sometimes be heard coming from the jaw joint when you chew or move your mouth. These noises can be normal, so they are only relevant if you have other symptoms in the joint, such as pain or reduced movement.
- Because the ear is very close to the jaw joint, some people get ear symptoms such as noise in the ear, sensitivity to sound or dizziness (vertigo).
What causes temporomandibular joint disorders?
The causes can be local and related to the joint or the muscles attached to it, or they can come from a structural problem with the position of the pelvis or from the neck. When it boils down to it, the bite becomes misaligned and this leads to pain or dysfunction.
Can you do anything about it?
Many problems in the jaw joint can be helped. There are various treatments which are often used in combination. Many people self-medicate with pain killers but that doesn’t really correct the long term problem.
- Chiropractic treatment:
Having an incorrect bite causes abnormalities in the jaw’s relationship to the skull. The strained position of the jaw can trigger pain in the neck, shoulders and back.
The aim of chiropractic treatment is to realign the bite and/or return the disc to its optimal position. The treatment we use in this clinic is using the activator to correct the joint; muscle work to release the muscles attached to the joint; and acupuncture points to release muscles and alleviate pain.
The chiropractic treatment also looks at the structure of the spine and pelvis to ensure that pelvic movement is at its best and that issues with the neck are not contributing to the problem.
- Dental treatment:
The aim of the dentist is to take pressure off the jaw using appliances called splints. These devices stop the teeth from coming in contact so that the jaw joint is under less pressure. Our friends at Vivid Dental in Five Dock have an article on grinding and the use of splints.
References for chiropractic treatment of TMJ dysfunction: