What Causes TMJ Dysfunction?


TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint, the highly movable hinge that connects your skull to the jawbone. It is also known as the jaw joint. When a person suffers from TMJ dysfunction, it can be very uncomfortable because it affects your ability to communicate and eat. Thus, it can affect your mouth appropriately.

Numerous factors can cause jaw dysfunction. The TMJ is consists of the bone beneath your mouth (mandible) and the bone just above your mouth (maxilla). It is one of the most frequently used joints in our body. The TMJ allows the mouth to open and close accordingly for chewing, talking, yawning, and biting. 

The temporomandibular joint is a highly complicated structure composed of muscles, bones, and tendons. Any trauma or injury to your jaw bone, like fractures and dislocations, can be the reason for jaw pain. Also, the pain can be due to a trauma that occurred to the neck or head. Thus, it can negatively affect the jaw, which is close to the neck, causing it not to line up correctly. The pain and discomfort can affect one or both sides of the jaw. Also, it can even get intense whenever you chew, bite, or move your jaw. In some cases, pain is there even when the jaw is at rest.

Is There a Difference Between TMJ and TMD?

TMD refers to any problem that affects the TMJ. TMD stands for temporomandibular joint disorder or dysfunction. Some people, including patients and a few doctors, mistakenly call it TMJ. However, TMJ is merely the acronym for the joint itself and not the condition. TMD has several reasons for happening.  Numerous patients reported one or more of these occurred to them right before the onset of their jaw pain. Here are the usual causes of TMD:

  • Sporting injuries
  • Whiplash
  • Trauma to the neck or head
  • Car accidents

A notable study observed 89 people with TMD. Researchers discovered that several patients began experiencing symptoms after experiencing an accident of some kind. Therefore, it makes it even more possible that there is a link between TMD and misalignment of the bones of the neck. There are other reasons for TMD to occur. They include the following:

  • Stress which forces you to tighten your jaw and facial muscles 
  • Arthritis in the joint
  • Clenching or grinding the teeth, which can also put pressure on the jaw joint
  • Displacement of the disc between the socket and ball of the joint

What Causes Jaw Pain?

Many other reasons cause jaw pain. These are the following: 

  • Certain types of arthritis such as osteoarthritis
  • Infection in the bone
  • Cluster headaches
  • Pregnancy Due to the secretion of certain hormones, the joints relax and soften.
  • Tooth pain Acute tooth infections (dental abscesses) cause pain that spreads into the jaw.
  • Sinus Issues Sinus infection leads to excess mucus that puts pressure on the jaw joint, causing pain.
  • Trigeminal neuralgiaA nervous system disorder that results in extreme facial pain and sometimes even in the jaw area.
  • Tumors
  • Cysts
  • Heart attack or coronary artery disease This type of pain can exude into the jaw area. Seek immediate medical help (call 911) if your symptoms are accompanied by:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest discomfort
  • Faintness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea

Symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction

The pain of TMD can be very discomforting and excruciating. It can either be temporary or may last for months or even years. Often it can affect only one side of the face, and sometimes, both sides. TMD pain is frequent among women compared to men.  Also, it happens commonly among adults aging 20 to 40 years old. Here is a list of the most common symptoms that indicate you may have TMD:

  • Difficulty opening the mouth wide
  • Dizziness
  • Toothaches
  • Swelling or pain in the jaw joint area that spreads in the face, neck, shoulders, and around your ears whenever you open your mouth
  • Hearing problems 
  • Ringing in the ears
  • A tired feeling in the facial area
  • Locked jaws
  • Trouble chewing or having an uncomfortable bite, feeling like your lower and upper teeth are out of alignment
  • Popping, clicking, or grating noise in the jaw joint if you open or close your mouth
  • Earaches
  • Headaches
  • Neck aches
  • Shoulder pain

Here Are Some Home Remedies To Relieve Jaw Dysfunction

We would like to share a few jaw pain management tips.  You can do both in the comfort of your home quickly, anytime.

  • Massage

Start pressing your middle and index fingers to the sore spot of your jaw lightly for a few seconds. Then do the same to this precise area, right in front of your ear (on both sides) where your jaw joint attaches. Then, slowly and gently rub it in small circular motions for 5 to 10 minutes. Stop if you feel any sharp pain. 

  • Apply an Ice Pack or Heat Pack

Put an ice pack on top of the painful area of your face for ten minutes. Then remove it for another ten before reapplying it. It will reduce inflammation. 

Dip a clean washcloth on hot water, and then put the heat pack near the painful part without touching the skin. The moist heat can help relax the tense jaw muscles and also lessen pain. When the wet cloth is no longer scalding hot, apply it lightly to the affected area for a few minutes.

A Non-Invasive Method to Get TMJ Pain Relief

Upper cervical chiropractic focuses on maintaining the proper alignment of the bones of the neck. If the neck bones – the atlas (C1) and axis (C2) vertebrae – in the upper cervical spine move out of their correct alignment, TMD may become the result. A misalignment in the neck bone significantly influences how the muscles, bones, and nerves move and function together. 

You don’t have to endure and suffer from your TMD pain anymore. Upper cervical chiropractors use a gentle and precise technique to realign the bones to their proper positions. Once accurately adjusted, the jaw muscles will begin to calm down, start healing naturally, and your TMD will be a thing of the past.

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The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.