Twin Cities TMJ and Facial Pain Clinic
General Facts Regarding TMJ and Jaw Pain
The lower jaw meets the skull in front of the ear and the joint that connects them is called the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). The initials, TMJ, refer to the joint itself. Problems or pain in the joint or muscles in the head and neck region are often referred to as temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD).
Noises in the TMJ are very common, and TMJ structural abnormalities are estimated to be present in approximately 35% of the adult population. Like any joint (knee, shoulder) the TMJ can be strained or injured. Injury can result from a specific trauma to the jaw area or can result from prolonged microtrauma (wear and tear) from oral habits (tooth grinding, jaw clenching, gum chewing). Some TMJ abnormalities are probably developmental (genetics), where no specific cause can be determined.
Once a joint is strained, it can be more easily re-injured (like a sprained ankle which is subsequently more prone to injury). Because we use the jaw for so many activities (talking, eating, yawning, laughing), the joint is constantly being moved. Therefore, TOTAL relaxation of the jaw joint and surrounding muscles is difficult. Maintaining the jaw muscles and joints in a relaxed position is, however, very manageable with practice. Regular attempts to relax the jaw muscles and avoidance of activities that would overwork the area, will be helpful to reduce the pain and prevent additional strain to that area.
**RECOGNIZE THAT TMD SYMPTOMS ARE NOT LIFE THREATENING EVEN THOUGH THEY CAN BE VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. INJURY TO THE TMJ AND JAW MUSCLES ARE VERY COMMON, AND JOINT NOISES (CLICKING, POPPING) AND LOCKING OF THE JAW ARE ALSO COMMON. MOST OFTEN THESE SYMPTOMS WILL IMPROVE OVER TIME. CHANGING HABITS, RELAXING THE AREA AND AVOIDING ADDITIONAL INJURY AND STRAIN WILL SPEED UP YOUR RECOVERY.