TMD is an abbreviation for temporomandibular disorders. These occur as a result of a problem with the jaw, the jaw joint, and the surrounding facial muscles responsible for chewing and moving the jaw. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint connecting the mandible (the lower jaw) to the temporal bone of the skull. It is located immediately in front of the ear on either side of your head. The joints are very flexible so as to allow the jaw to move smoothly side to side and up and down, enabling you to be able to talk, yawn, and chew. The position and movement of the jaw joint are controlled by the muscles attached to and surrounding it.
Why Does TMD Occur?
The reason for TMD is not really known. Dentists strongly believe it arises from problems with the muscles of the jaw or parts of the jaw itself. It is very likely that injury to the jaw, muscles of the head and neck, or temporomandibular joint is to blame. This could be due to a heavy blow to the head or neck, whiplash, or some of the following reasons:
- Grinding or clenching your teeth, putting too much pressure on the TMJ
- Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis of the TMJ
- Stress causing you to tighten your facial and jaw muscles or clench your teeth
- Dislocation of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket joint
Do You Have TMD?
Here are 5 signs indicating you may have TMD.
- Difficulty chewing. Problems with chewing is a common sign of TMD. It does not have to be consistent and actually may be intermittent, happening here and there. You may be chewing perfectly fine when all of a sudden you begin to feel pain and discomfort. This may cause you to have to stop chewing certain tough foods and resort to only eating soft foods until the pain subsides.
- Pulsating pain. This is often the very first symptom of TMD. It is a pulsating pain that spreads through your face and jaw and may range from mild to very severe, depending on how badly your joint is damaged. Some people describe the pain as wrapping up towards the head and leading to intense pulsating headaches. Others say it goes across their jawline. If you have pain in your jawline, it is likely you have TMD, as this is often one of the first and most obvious symptoms.
- Problems with your teeth. Another sign of TMD is whether your teeth fit together properly. Some feel this disorder causes their teeth to not fit as they should when the mouth is closed. It may be very subtle, but still there. If your jaw is damaged, it can be the cause of your teeth being offset, leading to problems closing your mouth without an awkward feeling.
- Tenderness. Most times the signs of TMD are not pronounced unless you are dealing with a particularly painful attack. Sometimes the symptoms are as simple as having tenderness in the area of the jaw. Tenderness can be a precursor to a much worse symptom or it can simply signal the disorder. Pay close attention to your body, and be alert to any odd sensations you may have, particularly around your face.
- Lockjaw. This is one of the most frightening signs of TMD. It can cause some to panic and think a much bigger issue is at play, but it is often just a telltale sign of the condition. Your jaw can get stuck in either an opened mouth or closed mouth position. But don’t let it scare you. Your jaw muscles will begin to ease up with time. If this occurs, it is a good time to seek help with this disorder.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of TMD can help you manage it better.
What Causes TMD?
The TMJ combines a hinge action with a sliding motion to help the jaw do what it is designed to do. When the parts of the bones interact, they move smoothly due to the joint being covered with cartilage and separated by a disc that absorbs shocks. If TMD occurs, the following may have occurred:
- The joint’s cartilage has been damaged by arthritis
- The joint is damaged by a blow to the head or neck or another similar impact
- The disc has eroded or moved out of its original position
You may be more susceptible to getting TMD if you have had any of the following:
- Various types of arthritis like rheumatoid or osteoarthritis
- Certain connective tissue diseases that lead to problems of the TMJ
- An injury to the jaw or head or neck
- Chronic clenching or grinding of your teeth
Finding Natural Relief for TMD
It is likely that TMD is linked to a misalignment in one of the bones of the upper cervical spine, the C1 or C2 vertebra. A misalignment in this area impacts the function of the brainstem and can cause the muscles to tighten. The spine may shift and try to compensate for this kind of problem. The brainstem may send improper signals to the brain about what is happening in the body, leading to TMD pain.
Upper cervical chiropractors are specifically trained to find and correct the tiny misalignments of the neck. It only takes a misalignment of ¼ of a millimeter to cause problems throughout the entire body. Once we use scientific measurements and special x-rays to help us determine where your misalignment is, we then employ a gentle method to help realign these bones. We are not required to pop and crack the spine to get results. Rather, we encourage the bones to naturally move back into place, often helping our patients find relief for the annoying pain of TMD.