TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint, which next to the skull’s cranial structures is the most complicated of the body’s joint systems. It is the joint on either side of the skull, working in unison to hold the lower jaw or the mandible and the upper temporal bone in cranium of the skull together. The joint’s most notable feature is the articular disc, which is composed of firm, flexible, and elastic fibrocartilagenous tissue, which divides the joint into and allows rotational and translational movement. Improper alignment of the muscles and the joints involved in the system, may cause stress and imbalance, often resulting to TMJ syndrome or disorder. TMJ syndrome is a broad term that mainly refers to the inflammation of the temporomandibular joint and/or acute to chronic pain in what is known as the muscles of mastication.
Some of the primary causes of TMJ syndrome include muscular hyperfunction or parafunction, (teeth grinding or bruxism) and displacement of the articular disc of the joint. These conditions result to significant pain in the area, combined with impairment of the joint’s function (locking of the jaw). The disorder transcends neurology and dentistry, which is why several treatment approaches are available to address the issue. Oftentimes, some of the most troublesome and seemingly complicated chiropractic cases can be solved by simple dental orthopedic treatments, especially when uneven bite due to the misalignment of the jaw proves to be the main cause of the problem.
The symptoms associated with TMJ syndrome include difficulty or discomfort in chewing and biting, dull pain in the face, a clicking, grating or popping sound when opening and closing the mouth, earache, migraine and headache in the morning, hearing loss, tinnitus, jaw pain, neck and shoulder pain, dizziness, and difficulty in opening or closing the mouth to its full extent.
Treatment of the temporomandibular joint syndrome can be a variety of approaches. This includes restoration of the teeth’s occlusal surfaces or supporting structures, which fixes interferences or inappropriate posterior teeth contact when doing sideways chewing motions. Using occlusal splints or mouth guards to reduce night time teeth clenching in patients is also a common practice, as well as using a night time EMG biofeedback device such as a biofeedback headband to reduce bruxism, which causes the damage that largely contributes to TMJ disorder symptoms. Some treatments are multifaceted, integrating dental corrections like subtle bite adjustments and splint therapy along with muscular release and chiropractic adjustments.