Temporomandibular joint disorder, more commonly known as TMJ disorder or TMJ dysfunction, is a dysfunction of the jaw, characterized by pain or tenderness of the jaw, and pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints, sometimes radiating to the ear. It can be accompanied by clicking, occasional or frequent loud popping, and can even lock up at times, making it difficult to open or close your mouth.
How does TMJ disorder develop?
Often, stress will drive people to clench their teeth without even knowing it, especially during sleep. This clenching of the teeth contracts the muscles responsible for opening and closing the jaw, fatiguing them before you’ve even begun your day.
Couple that with chewing gum or eating something very chewy or very crunchy, and those jaw muscles will continue to tire out. And where is there is an overworked, overtired, tight muscle, there is a dysfunctioning joint.
In almost every case of TMJ disorder I have encountered, there is almost always a misalignment of the C1 vertebra. Considering the contact point for a C1 adjustment is directly behind the jaw and under the ear, this is never surprising.
In fact, I often recommend people come in to get an adjustment within 24 hours of seeing a dentist because laying with your mouth open for an hour or two at a time can be surprisingly rough on the upper cervical spine (top of your neck).
In addressing TMJ disorder, I examine the tracking of jaw movement. Often the jaw will open at a lopsided angle accompanied by clicking and disjointed movement. Then, based on the angle of the jaw, I will adjust it accordingly, often loosening up the muscles around the jaw to ensure the success of the adjustment.
Fixing a TMJ disorder through chiropractic is a team effort and not always a one time thing. I can definitely do my part to restore proper function of the TMJ, but measures to lessen stress and stay away from foods that will overwork and fatigue the jaw must be taken. But when that’s done, proper TMJ function can certainly be restored and life can return to normal.