TMJ Dysfunction Explained

What is the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)?
The TMJ is located directly in front of your inner ear, below your temple,

and is a part of the body we use many times during the day when we talk, yawn, eat, drink or chew (see diagram). Usually, you are only aware of this joint when it becomes painful.

What causes TMJ Dysfunction?

The pain and tenderness of TMJ dysfunction can be caused by the disc in the joint moving out of place and causing pressure on sensitive structures around the joint.

Other causes of TMJ Dysfunction include:

  • Clenching or grinding of the teeth, both during the day and while sleeping at night
  • Poor posture, leading to strains or overuse of muscles in the face and neck
  • Inability to relax
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of restful sleep
  • Arthritis
  • Fractures
  • Alignment or structural problems present since birth
  • Injuries to the face, head or neck, such as concussions, facial blows, or motor vehicle accidents

Symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction

The pain of TMJ dysfunction can be sharp, searing and catching, or dull and constant. It can be extremely debilitating

Other symptoms include:

  • Ear pain, or fullness of the ears
  • Facial pain
  • Sore, tight, tender jaw muscles
  • Temple, cheek, tooth or jaw pain while swallowing, yawning, talking or chewing
  • Jaw popping, clicking or locking upon opening or closing, or while chewing
  • Reduced ability to fully open or close the mouth
  • Frequent headaches or neck aches
  • Muscle pain and spasms in the face, head and neck
  • Ringing in the ears

Physiotherapy and TMJ Treatment

Are there treatment options?

Fortunately, a trained Physiotherapist can help by teaching you relaxation, stretching and strengthening exercises for the face, head and neck muscles. These exercises can also help to augment the effect of the appliance or mouth guard your dentist may have already provided to you.

Your program may include one or more of the following:

  • Stretching and strengthening exercises of the jaw, head and neck
  • Postural correction, relaxation and breathing exercises
  • Manual stretches and mobilizations of the jaw and neck joints
  • Ultrasound and electrical stimulation to improve healing

What can you expect?

At Kanata Orthopaedic Physiotherapy Clinic, you will work directly with a certified Physiotherapist, trained through post graduate course work, in the assessment and treatment of TMJ dysfunctions.

Your Physiotherapist will assess:

  • Your unique jaw and neck movement disorder or alignment issues
  • Muscle imbalances and tightness
  • Any joint related problems

Following your assessment, your Physiotherapist will put you on a specific, individualized exercise program. You will continue to see your Physiotherapist to monitor and progress your program, and to provide you with the hands-on therapy you may require.

Your Physiotherapist will always be in contact with your dentist and/or specialist to coordinate your treatment with their recommendations.

Kanata Orthopaedic Physiotherapy Clinic’s “Quick Tips” for protecting your Jaw:

  • Rest your muscles and joints by eating soft foods when in pain
  • Do not chew gum, pencils, or fingernails
  • Avoid clenching or tensing the muscles of the jaw, face and neck
  • When in pain try relaxing your jaw muscles with moist heat or with ice
  • Try to practice stress management techniques, relaxation or deep breathing exercises
  • Make sure to get plenty of good sleep
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Always follow the advice of your dentist or oral specialist, and use your appliance as prescribed

To book an appointment with a Physiotherapist trained in the assessment and treatment of TMJ dysfunction please call (613) 599-8132 and request an appointment for TMJ or Jaw pain.