Have you ever felt pain in the jaw without necessarily having a dental problem? Or, have you ever had a toothache, while your dentist can not find the reason why? Have you ever had trouble closing or opening your mouth with painful crunches every time you try to open or close your mouth? If this is the case, it is likely that you have temporomandibular joint (the junction that forms the jaw) dysfunction. Sometimes very incapacitating, this dysfunction can prevent you from enjoying the little pleasures of life … like eating a good hamburger!
The TMJ is a joint composed of a condyle (cushioned and movable surface) and a cavity that resembles a saddle at the level of the temporal bone (temple). The presence of the condyle helps to smooth the movements of the TMJ. Strong articulation, it is able to provide a lot of pressure and resist repeated daily use (talking, eating, yawning). If one of the TMJs is blocked, more stress will be put on the other, possibly causing pain.
Several muscles are tied around the ATM. These muscles may be palpated on either side of the joint, namely: lateral and medial pterygoids, temporalis and masseters. Often these muscles can become hypertonic (too tight) and cause pain to refer to the teeth or even to the neck and skull. The increased tension of these muscles can even sometimes cause a decrease in the mobility of the TMJ.
TMJ Influence On The Body
Surprisingly, new research links head and back posture with pain at the TMJ. Indeed, having your head forward (favorite position of people working on a computer) causes greater stress on the muscles of the neck and therefore the jaw. Fascia becomes stretched and pulls the joints of the jaw forward and down, the position of the tongue changes and the bite of the teeth changes. It is not surprising then that your physiotherapist looks at your posture and works your neck if you come for a jaw problem!
Sometimes, joint physiotherapy and dentistry treatments may be desirable. Otherwise, physiotherapy and osteopathy treatments may be recommended for a multidisciplinary approach to cover all aspects that may affect the articulation of the jaw (skull bones, fascia, etc.). During the assessment, the physiotherapist will advise you on which approach is the most appropriate for you. All in the goal to make you bite in life again!
Andrée-Anne Lorrain, Msc.pht