Temporal Mandibular Joint Dysfunction
The temporal mandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinged joint that connects the mandible, or lower jaw, and the temporal bone of the skull. It is located in front of the ear on either side of the head. The joint is flexible and allows for the motion needed to talk, chew and yawn. The muscles surrounding the joint control the smooth movement of the jaw to open and close the mouth. Between the two joint surfaces of the TMJ sits a disc. This disc also assists in the smooth motion of the joint.
Pain in this area or temporal mandibular disorder (TMD) can occur suddenly without an identifying cause. Muscle irritation, joint immobility or disc displacement are often the root cause of facial pain. Habits such as nail biting, excessive gum chewing, clenching/ grinding teeth as well neck trauma, poor posture or orthodontic work can cause abnormal motion of the jaw or displacement of the disc and lead to facial pain.
Symptoms of temporal mandibular joint pain can include:
- Neck pain
- Clicking or popping at the TMJ with opening or closing of the mouth
- Decreased range of motion of opening or closing of the mouth
- Ear pain
- Abnormal motion of the jaw
TMJ treatment includes:
- Manual therapy to improve both joint and soft tissue mobility of the TMJ and cervical spine
- Postural screening and instruction on postural correction
- Instruction on exercise to improve TMJ and cervical spine strength and stability