Understanding Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
The temporomandibular joint enables the jaw to open and close.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, also known as TMD, occurs when there is a disharmony between the way the muscles move the jaw and the way the teeth meet during those movements.
There are 68 pairs of muscles that directly or indirectly affect the position of the jaw. Apart from opening and closing the jaw, the role of these muscles is to position the lower jaw to perfectly correspond to the top.
If the upper jaw is tilted, sloped too steeply or positioned too far back, the muscles and tendons of the lower jaw will have to match the position – no matter how odd or strained – for the teeth to work in harmony. This can place pressure on the jaw joint.
The Most Common Signs of TMD
The common signs that you may have TMD include general aching and soreness in the face, neck and shoulders, headaches, difficulty and pain when opening your mouth, yawning or chewing.
You might also have a recurring ‘popping’ of the jaw, a feeling of your jaw being out of alignment, pressure or ringing in the ears, hearing loss, and pressure behind the eyes.
Since there are many blood vessels and nerves that exit the skull in the area of the temporomandibular joint, an awkward position of the jaw or pressure on the muscles can create conditions leading to a myriad of symptoms such as:
- Hearing loss
- Ringing in the ears
- Nervousness and anxiety
- Cold hands and feet
- Body pains and numbness
You could also experience postural symptoms such as:
- Neck pain
- Excessive lumbar lordosis (sway back)
- Thoracic hyper kyphosis (hump back)
- Rotation of the pelvis resulting in uneven leg length
- Uneven shoulder height
- Head tilt
Eventually, the temporomandibular joint will start to fail, causing your jaw to become painful, click and/or lock, and you may suffer from neck pain, shoulder pain, dizziness and referred pain to the sinuses.
At this stage, research has not found an absolute cause, but the following factors are all linked to the development of TMD:
- Bad bite
- Worn teeth
- Missing teeth
- Night time clenching and grinding
- Muscle deficiencies
- Orthodontics without proper consideration to the bite
- Crown and bridge or restorative dentistry without proper adjusted occlusion or bite
- Accidents (Whiplash)
- Improper cranial development
Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction could possibly be the most misunderstood, misdiagnosed and mistreated medical problem in our society.
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