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“TMJ” Disorders

2.16.16 in General

So far on this blog, we have been talking about the healthy Temporomandibular joint, the muscles that move the jaw, and the teeth as they are placed in the bone and gum tissue. Now you know the components of this system. Think of each of them as a link in the overall chain.

When disorder occurs, the first sign or symptom will be at the link that is the weakest. Some people present with a joint click and pain, some have headaches. Others show wear patterns on their teeth, or loose teeth. Many people have some signs from each of the links. It makes knowing the normal anatomy and function of all of the areas crucial, if proper treatment is to follow. So, what could go wrong?

Let’s start at the joint level. Some form of trauma, whether acute or chronic, can damage the components of a healthy TMJ. When that happens, disharmony in the system occurs. So, joints that should move smoothly and silently in health may present as a joint sound (ie. A click or pop or “clunk”), when damage has occurred. There may be no sound as a sign, but rather, sore muscles, especially those that close the jaw. This may be accentuated with increase stress levels or overuse of the jaw. Many times the only abnormal sign is regularly occurring headaches. Many patients have often answered questions about headaches like this: “Mrs. Jones, do you get frequent headaches?” “ Yes, doctor, almost every morning I have one, but they’re because of sinus. They have nothing to do with my teeth.” Oh really? Often when we put together our knowledge of where those muscles that move the jaw are, and other signs of disharmony from the teeth; It becomes obvious that this whole system is “acting up” because of one or more of the components not being in harmony with the rest.

A bit of detective work is often needed to uncover the source of signs of damage, or symptoms. Next time we will talk about some approaches to treating these problems.

Stay tuned in and keep smiling. Dr W.

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