Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction

What is TMJ Dysfunction:

TMJ disorder are disorders that affect the jaw. This disorder affects 25-33% of the population. It may be within the joint (from structural changes or hypermobility) or outside of the joint (from over-activity of the jaw muscles or posture). 70% of patients with TMJ disorders are due to malposition of the intra-articular disc. TMJ can occur on its own, but can also arise in association with headache or neck dysfunction.

Typical Presentation:

Generally symptoms are located near the joint, ear, jaw, head, neck and shoulder.

People may notice noises such as:

  • Clicking, grating, or popping when moving the jaw

  • Dizziness

  • Tinnitis

  • Pins and needles.

Repetitive chewing/biting, teeth grinding [bruxism] and habitual activities such as biting nails can make symptoms worse.

What can I do to help reduce symptoms?

Temporarily switching to a soft food diet can help settle symptoms initially. Applying ice, heat, or massage to muscles around the jaw can be useful to reduce tension. Stress management can also help reduce symptoms.

How can a physiotherapist help?

Physiotherapy is very effective for managing TMJ. Your physiotherapist will start with a thorough biomechanical assessment of the upper quadrant of the body including, shoulder, neck and head addressing any asymmetries that may be present. As there are multiple types of TMJ, a proper diagnosis will be crucial to guide treatment.

Manual therapy and soft tissue release may be used to restore normal movement, reduce pain, and increase range of movement. Exercises to improve range of motion and movement patterns, and education of proper resting position of the jaw will be important to restore function.

Addressing other contributing factors such as stress behaviors, posture and habitual activities will be important for long term management of TMJ dysfunction. A multidisciplinary approach involving your dentist may be useful if an occlusal splint is indicated.

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