What is TMJ/TMD?
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is the joint of the jaw. There are two TMJs, one on each side of the jaw, and they work in unison to open and close our mouths and allow us to chew and speak. A TMJ disorder (or TMD) is a chronic degenerative condition that can take years to develop and have serious consequences to your health and quality of life. When your jaw is misaligned, it can cause headaches, neck, and/or shoulder pain, clicking and/or popping sounds in the jaw, locked jaw, jaw pain, ear pain, teeth grinding, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and tingling.
The exact cause of a person’s TMJ disorder is often difficult to determine. Many people who have jaw pain tend to clench or grind their teeth (bruxism). Your pain may also be due to a combination of other factors, such as genetics, arthritis or jaw injury.
In most cases, the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders is temporary and can be relieved with treatment, self-care, or nonsurgical treatments. Surgery is typically a last resort after conservative measures have failed, but some people with TMJ disorders may benefit from surgical treatments.
Signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders may include:
- Pain or tenderness of your jaw that is constant or recurring
- Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
- Pain (aching and/or sharp) in and around your ear
- Difficulty/pain chewing or popping sounds while chewing
- Aching facial pain
- Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
- Constant/reappearing ringing or muffling of the ears
TMJ disorders can also cause a clicking sound or a gritty sensation when you open your mouth or chew. Depending on the severity of the jaw tension, it may also cause a noticeable lateral shift of the jaw when opening/closing.
Through examination of your jaw, our experienced doctors can assess the reason and structures involved for your TMJ dysfunction. Quite commonly, the problem can be reversed by using conservative therapy (acupuncture and targeted soft tissue work) to slowly relax the shortened muscles causing the problem. Sometimes the jaw position will also need to be corrected and re-positioned through chiropractic therapy to fully resolve the problem. Especially if the TMJ problem is chronic, we may also refer you to your dentist, or a specialized dentist experienced with TMJ problems to have a proper custom night guard made to prevent relapse of the problem in the future.
Although there will often be discomfort when we start therapy, the therapy is non-invasive and has no side effects. We are simply normalizing the and returning the proper mechanics and function of the jaw.
How long does it take to get better?
Recovery time will vary depending on chronicity, complexity, and severity. Most cases start to improve within 6 weeks. Full recovery usually takes from 2-6 months depending on the complexity of the case. Some exceptional cases may take longer.