TMD occurs as a result of problems with the jaw bone, jaw joint and surrounding facial muscles that control chewing and talking. These disorders are often incorrectly called TMJ, which stands for temporomandibular joint.
The cause of TMD is often multifactorial. Symptoms can arise from the muscles of the jaw or with the parts of the joint itself. The upper neck tissue can also refer pain into the jaw region.
Causes and contributing factors to TMD:
- Injury to the jaw, temporomandibular joint, or muscles of the head and neck – such as from a heavy blow or whiplash
- Grinding or clenching the teeth, which puts a lot of pressure on the TMJ
- Disc dysfunction – subluxation causing a click as the mouth opens
- Presence of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the joint
- Habitual overuse of facial muscles – for example clenching, grinding, or biting fingernails
- Prolonged orthodontic / dental work, or having had surgery to correct jaw and bite alignment.
People with TMD can experience severe pain and discomfort that can be temporary or last for many years. More women than men experience TMD, and it is more common in people between the ages of 20 and 40.
Common symptoms of TMD include:
- Pain or tenderness in the face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide (pain may occur on one or both sides of the face)
- Limited ability to open the mouth very wide
- Jaws that get ‘stuck’ or ‘lock’ in the open- or closed-mouth position
- Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth (which may or may not be accompanied by pain) or chewing
- A tired feeling in the face
- Difficulty chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite – as if the upper and lower teeth are not fitting together properly
- Swelling on the side of the face.
Other symptoms of TMD include toothaches, headaches, neck aches, dizziness, earaches, hearing problems, upper shoulder pain and ringing in the ears.
If you have any of these symptoms that are interfering with your quality of life, then you are likely to find a physiotherapy assessment very helpful.
What to expect from a physiotherapy consult for your TMD:
The physiotherapist will take a complete history of your current condition as well as relevant past history. This is followed by a physical examination looking at the flexibility of the TMJ into opening and side gliding. A glove is used to move the TMJ by holding the jaw and teeth in order to feel the joint mobility. There are also muscles that can be felt from inside the mouth. Assessment of movement of the upper neck as well as muscle tension though neck and face will be included.
Following the assessment, the physiotherapist will be able to tell you what is contributing to your TMD, how physio can help and whether there is a need for referral to a dentist or medical provider.
We have an extremely specialised service for patients with temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD). Many of our physiotherapists have a keen interest in treating this disorder and have attained additional skills and knowledge in order to treat these problems more effectively.