Jaw Pain or Dysfunction

Have you ever had pain in or around your jaw? Does your jaw click/ pop when you open or close your mouth? Do you grind your teeth?

What does this mean?!

I firmly believe that It’s so important to understand you own body and your pain. Knowledge gives us the power back to manage our own pain and dysfunctions. To live a happier and more functional life.

So let us look at the Jaw. You may have heard about TMJ, TMD?

TMJ means Tempomandibular Joint. That is the name of your jaw joint. And all of us have one.

Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are disorders of the jaw muscles, temporomandibular joints, and the nerves linked to chronic facial pain. Any problem that prevents the complex system of muscles, bones, and joints from working together in harmony may result in temporomandibular disorder.


Lets look at the anatomy of the jaw.

The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are the 2 joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull. More specifically, they are the joints that slide and rotate in front of each ear. They include the lower jaw (mandible) and the temporal bone (the side and base of the skull).

The muscles involved are the Masseter which is the primary mover. So when you clench, that’s the muscle that bulges. The master is also known as the strongest muscle in the body.

If you clench at night wake up the master is really sore and tight. Over time that clenching could cause pain.

Temporalis muscle is an accessory chewing muscle Its the one that bulges when you clench over your temples, this one can cause pain and headaches as well.

If you have pain deep inside the mouth it could be the Pterygoid muscles. They are two of the four muscles of mastication, located in the infratemporal fossa of the skull. These muscles are: lateral pterygoid and medial pterygoid. The primary function of the pterygoid muscles is to produce movements of the mandible at the temporomandibular joint.

The TMJs are among the most complex joints in the body. These joints, along with several muscles, allow the mandible to move up and down, side to side, and forward and back.

When the mandible and the joints are correctly aligned, smooth muscle actions can take place. These include chewing, talking, yawning, and swallowing. When these structures (muscles, ligaments, disk, jaw bone, temporal bone) are not aligned they don’t move well together. This may cause several problems to occur.

What causes TMD?

Tempro mandibular joint dysfunction is an umbrella term for any of the pain or dysfcuntion in the jaw. In many cases, the actual cause of this disorder may not be that clear.

Sometimes the main cause is too much strain on the jaw joints and the Masster from chewing, swallowing, and speech.

This strain may be due to bruxism. This is the habitual, involuntary clenching or grinding of the teeth.

Injury to the jaw, the head, or the neck may also cause TMD.

Now lets say you have clicking or popping noise when you open and close your mouth, this is not necessarily bad ! i joints and that is any joint in the b stage might click or pop. But what’s happening Indside the joint? ?

What are the symptoms of TMD?

  • Jaw discomfort or soreness (often most common in the morning or late afternoon)

  • Headaches

  • Pain spreading behind the eyes, in the face, shoulder, neck, or back

  • Earaches or ringing in the ears (not caused by an infection of the inner ear canal)

  • Clicking or popping of the jaw

  • Locking of the jaw

  • Limited mouth motions

  • Clenching or grinding of the teeth

  • Dizziness

  • Teeth sensitivity without an oral health disease

  • Numbness or tingling feeling in the fingers

  • A change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together

Now lets say you have clicking or popping noise when you open and close your mouth, this is not necessarily bad. Joints and that is any joint in the body at some stage might click or pop. But what’s happening inside the joint?

Where jaw and cheek meet, you have a n articular disc. Lets say your jaw moves to the front or back of this articulation site you can get clicking or popping. So it might mean that you disc is moving a bit forward and clicking back into place as you close. For instance It is not really something to be concerned about. When we look at the body we are not working to wards perfection. If that clicking is not associated with pain or stopping you from taking a big bite, then its not really bad.

How do we treat or manage jaw pain:

Physios will always assess the joints above and below, in this case we need to look at the next and shoulders.

We want to be able put three finders inside our mouth. That’s functional range of motion for the jaw. Next we want to be able to open and close the moth and move from side to side and forward underbite and overbite.

Next we look at breathing , are you breathing up and down, or are you breathing form side to side. We should be breathing more into our belly and less into out shoulders and neck.

Can you rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth? This can help us tap into the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and relax nervous system).

Looking at your muscles range of motion and if you can track with out going out of the plane of movement. This is a great way to retrain habitual muscle patterning.

Last but not least we need to take the Bio psychosocial model of pain into consideration. How we feel about our pain and what is happening around us influences how we move, take and hold ourselves.

If you struggle with jaw pain- go see your physio asap!

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