Worldwide, millions of people suffer from pain associated with the temporomandibular joints and the associated muscles of chewing. This pain can be both chronic, constant, and dull-aching, or sharp, acute and severe. In some instances, it can also be any combination of these, but experiencing any of these is never pleasant.
The temporomandibular joints or TMJs are the joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull. These joints are the most complex joints found in any organism and can not only hinge open but can protrude the jaw. (ginglio-arthroidal joint). The reason we can manipulate the jaw the way we can is due, in part, to an avascular disk placed within a capsule held in place by ligaments between the ball of the lower jaw (condyle) and the wide socket (fossa) of the upper jaw. If it sounds complex and possibly prone to problems, you are right…it is! To make matters more difficult, the joints are in use all the time as we speak, chew, yawn, and swallow so pain in or near the joints can cause significant problems.
Some of these problems include the following:
If any of these symptoms are present, it would be advisable to call for a consultation to evaluate for appropriate treatment. Dr. Skarin worked as an associate for one of the world’s foremost authorities in TMJ physiology, H.T. Perry, D.D.S, Ph.D., former chair of the orthodontic department at Northwestern University. Hal Perry’s knowledge of the joints and his conservative approach to managing TMJ problems continues to represent the gold standard for treatment, and Dr. Skarin continues to employ the same clinically successful approaches for his patients.
In some cases, some of these symptoms can be controlled with self-monitoring or changes you can make during your daily routines. Anxiety and stress are frequent factors that lead to clenching and grinding, both of which can be causal factors for myofacial pain. Relaxing of the facial muscles by having an awareness of this response to stress and keeping the teeth apart could be helpful during the waking hours. Chewing gum should be avoided entirely and should even be minimized for people without TMJ issues. Even good posture with back straight and head up and avoiding resting your chin on your hand can be helpful. And at night, the position of your jaw relative to the pillow, hand or arm can put undue pressure on the joints and should be monitored.
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