The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint that connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull. Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) occur as a result of problems with the jaw, jaw joint, and surrounding facial muscles that control moving the jaw. This joint is immediately in front of the ear on each side of your head. When working properly these joints are flexible, allowing the jaw to move smoothly up and down and side to side and enabling you to talk, chew, and yawn. Muscles attached to and surrounding the jaw joint control its position and movement.
The causes of TMD are not clear, but doctors believe that symptoms manifest from problems with the muscles of the jaw or with the parts of the joint itself, possibly caused by injury to the jaw, temporomandibular joint, or to muscles of the head and neck such as from a heavy blow or whiplash. Other possible causes include: Grinding or clenching your teeth, dislocation of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket, presence of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the TMJ, and even stress, which can cause a person to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench the teeth.
People with TMD can experience severe pain and discomfort that can be temporary or last for many years. Research has shown that up to 90% of the sufferers are women, and that this condition occurs most commonly in patients 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, popping or clicking sounds when you open or close your mouth, your jaws getting stuck or locked in the open or closed mouth position, difficult or even painful chewing, toothaches, headaches, neck pain, dizziness, earaches, and hearing problems.
This condition is often treated by dentists or oral surgeons, but as with treatment of many other conditions, surgery should be considered only after all other more conservative methods have been tried. Among these effective non-surgical alternatives are chiropractic adjustment of the neck and/or jaw and chiropractic manipulation of the muscles both inside and outside the mouth, Ultrasound, and Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). By applying one or more of these non-invasive techniques in certain cases, Dr. Alex has successfully treated patients suffering from TMJ.