TMJ stands for Temperomandibular Joint. The chin bone is known as the mandible and the bone in your skull where it meets at the jaw is the temporal bone, hence its name. The TMJ/jaw is probably the most used joint in the body as it is being worked with such activities as talking, eating, yawning, kissing, singing and tongue actions like sucking and swallowing. The muscles around the TMJ/jaw are not only used in these activities but also with most emotions. Smiling, laughing, scowling as well anger, frustration and sadness fire up different muscles attached to the Jaw.
The TMJ has a disc, not dissimiliar to the ones in the spine, which is stressed with additional loading or over activity such as clenching, grinding, nail biting or adverse dental alignment. The disc can change shape and position or come too far forward resulting in clicking and at worst locking when it most commonly limits opening but sometimes remains stuck open.
Dysfunction in the joint itself, the surrounding muscles, poor posture, neck stiffness, nerve irritation or reduced mobility, poor teeth alignment as well as the disc, can result in jaw pain, clicking, locking, difficulty opening or closing the mouth, pain in the throat or difficulty swallowing, ear pain, fullness, blocking and ringing, headache and dizziness.
The degree of the problem can vary enormously. It can be a simple issue only requiring some advice. It may need a few sessions of treatment coupled with a home program plus or minus reviews as necessary or it can be quite complex requiring intervention from other medical or dental professionals as well. All TMJ /jaw pain and other jaw issues require a thorough assessment to determine the exact nature and cause of the problem and to determine where it lies on this spectrum of severity.
Jaw pain or TMJ pain/ problems and headaches often go hand in hand. For this reason it is important that the professional consulted has training and experience in treating both these areas and understands their interaction with each other to ensure the best possible outcome.