The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ in short, functions as a sliding hinge which connects your jawbone to your skull. This joint is present on both sides of your jaw. Having TMJ disorders can cause pain in both the joint and the muscles around it.
TMJ disorders can present a variety of symptoms and not always with a consistent pattern.
The most common symptoms are:
- Facial pain
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing
- Limited mouth opening
- Unexplained (phantom) tooth pain
- Headaches (including common migraines)
- Blocked eustachian tubes (stuffy ears)
- Dizziness (vertigo)
- Ringing or whooshing sounds in the ears (tinnitus)
- Subjective hearing loss
- Chronic neck and postural tension
It is rare for a patient to have all of these symptoms present but most people exhibit a few of them.
Some people only experience headaches, some only experience facial pain, and some only experience ear problems.
A few TMJ disorder patients also suffer from unusual neuromotor disorders (such as facial twitching), neurosensory disorders (numbness), and a variety of minor visual problems.
No matter what symptoms characterize your TMJ disorder, many people adapt to their joint disorder.
However after full adaptation, people may still experience difficulty with normal joint function, a shifting bite that causes difficulty chewing, chronic postural muscle tightness extending to the jaw muscles (myofascial pain), and chronic ear problems.
When people experience acute TMJ pain it is usually accompanied by muscle pain. This happens because damage to any joint produces a reflex tightening of the muscles surrounding that joint.
Treating the jaw muscles allows the jaw to fully open as well as decreases inflammation and thus pain.
TMJ and Headaches
Jaw muscle tension also causes chronic headaches. Sustained pressure from jaw muscle tightness can cause headaches by disrupting the normal balance of fluid pressures inside the skull.
As a result, different headache types (including common migraine) are often responsive to treatment that affects the jaw muscles - whether the pain is located at the front of the head (sinus headaches), in the middle of the head (temporal headaches), or at the back of the head (occipital or cervical headaches).
TMJ and Body Posture
One rarely understood feature in most TMJ disorders is that it can cause a forward head posture, which triggers an adaptive response of the body's posture to maintain physical balance, an open airway, and a level head.
The adaptive change in body posture can cause degenerative changes in the intervertebral joints. When postural muscles have been held tight for long periods of time, they become painful and shortened.
Ear symptoms include dizziness, ringing in the ear, stuffiness, and subjective hearing loss which can be produced by tight jaw muscles or increased fluid pressure from TMJ swelling. Eustachian Tube blockage is also a common symptom of TMJ disorders.
Our treatment goals are designed to relax painful muscles, relieve bothersome symptoms by relocating the joint to a healthy position and managing recurring episodes of TMJ pain.
Receive the very best
TMJ treatment from Dr. Robin Khan
Dr. Khan is a long standing and active member of the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain as well as the American Academy of Physiologic Medicine and Dentistry. She has vast experience in the evaluation (including CBCT 3D scans) and management of TMJ disorders. Call us at 402-932-0282 to make an appointment today!