By Dr. Jessica Eliason
According to the Minnesota Craniofacial Center, approximately one in three people suffers from Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorders. Your TMJ, more commonly referred to as the jaw, is one of the most powerful joints in the body. But did you know that TMJ disorders can manifest in ways other than pain? If you have any of the following symptoms, you may have dysfunction in your TMJ:
-Pain or clicking in the jaw, especially in the morning or when chewing
-Ear pain or ringing that cannot otherwise be explained
-Other facial pain
-Headaches, including migraines
-A fatigued feeling in the jaws
-Tightness in the jaws
The TMJ is a very interesting, complex joint. The bone that holds your upper row of teeth is the maxilla. The lower row are connected to the mandible, the jaw bone. As you can see in the diagram below, there are a lot of muscles attaching to the bones of your jaw and face. Because this is a very powerful joint, there is a small articular disc that sits in the capsule of the jaw that helps reduce friction on the joint and absorb pressure. Just like the joints in your spine, the joints and structures of the jaw can get out of place, leading to pain and irritation. Some of these muscles, such as the pterygoids, masseter, and temporalis, can cause headache pain when they tighten up to protect a dysfunctional TMJ.
Let’s examine the jaw:
The TMJ is located near many sensitive structures of the head and face. It slightly anterior to the ear, and the chewing motion of the jaw helps with drainage of the ear via stimulation of the Eustachian tubes. If your jaw isn’t working correctly, you may notice ear pain and pressure because it cannot drain properly. Your trigeminal ganglion, a complex network of nerves that supplies sensation and function to the head and face, is also located in this area, just above the TMJ. The location of this network of nerves is part of the reason jaw pain can be so irritating. And again, there are a lot of muscles attaching your jaw to the rest of the skull that have the potential to cause headaches.
So, what sort of things can cause a jaw to be dysfunctional? It can be as complex as trauma to the face, or as simple as grinding your teeth at night. TMJ pain and dysfunction can feel like a hopeless, dead-end ailment. In addition to proper dental care, chiropractic care can help ease pain through interventions such as muscle work, adjustments, home care instruction, and referral if necessary. Call (651)699-8610 to schedule an appointment today!