With an estimated ten million people affected in the United States alone, Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (better known as TMD or “lock jaw”) is a common ailment that causes pain in the jaw joint.  The Temporomandibular Joint is one of the most important structures of the jaw seeing that it is the hinge that connects your lower jawbone to your skull and allows for your jaw to move up and down, as well as from side to side. Considering that the temporomandibular joint is used for everyday activities such as talking, chewing, and yawning, when TMJ pain occurs it can be severely painful and irritating to the point of distraction.

TMJ Symptoms: (1)

  • Debilitating pain and discomfort in the jaw, face, neck, and/or shoulders
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Pain or tenderness when you speak, chew, or open your mouth too wide
  • Clicking, popping, or grating sounds when you open or close your mouth
  • Swelling on the side of your face
  • Jaw gets stuck or “locks” in the open or closed mouth position
  • Ringing in ears
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble sleeping

While some people have to deal with the discomfort caused by TMJ, many people do not experience symptoms at all. As a matter of fact, about twenty-five percent of people with TMJ experience no pain or change in normal jaw functions. While this may seem ideal to that 25%, the lack of pain can actually be dangerous considering that it causes people to leave their TMJ untreated for years, allowing for the slow inflammation and deterioration of the joints surrounding the jaw. (2)

In some cases, because the symptoms of the disorder do not present themselves until the late stages of TMJ, when serious damage and deterioration have already occurred, it is important to address the problem early on in order to start the healing process. The exact cause of chronic TMJ is not definitively known, but the pain it creates could be due to and worsened by a number of factors, including: (3)

Factors That Worsen TMJ

  1.  Grinding/Clenching your teeth, which puts a lot of pressure on the joint
  2.  Injury to your jaw or the muscles in your head and neck (such as whiplash or a major blow to the head)
  3.  Stress, which can cause the muscles in your face to tighten

Because many other conditions cause symptoms similar to that of TMD (such as tooth decay, sinus problems, arthritis, or gum disease), dentists may attempt to give you a diagnosis through costly full-face x-rays, or even through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI test) or computerized tomography scans (CT-scans). While helpful, these methods can become highly expensive and are often only necessary for some of the more severe cases, which do not apply to most people. As well, solutions like surgery should always be a last-resort, considering the possible implication that surgical replacement of the jaw joints with artificial implants has the potential to cause severe pain and permanent jaw damage. So if extreme medical practices aren’t the solution, what can be done about the pain caused by TMJ? (4)

TMJ Remedies and Natural Solutions: (5)

  •  Getting enough sleep/side-sleeping - Getting a good night’s sleep while sleeping on your side using a pillow for support between your neck and shoulder can help to reduce inflammation
  • Reducing stress - TMJ and stress have been linked in several ways. Relaxation practices such as exercising, stretching, and a combination of yoga, massage therapy, and meditation can help to get symptoms under control
  • Essential oils - Gently rubbing essential oils (like peppermint oil, lavender oil, etc.) to the region of pain can help to reduce stress, swelling, and tension

Icepack or warm compresses - Applying icepacks or warm compresses against your jaw 1-2 times a day can help to lower inflammation, improve circulation, and relax the muscles. Some people prefer using ice because it helps to numb pain receptors and release endorphins to naturally block pain   

Eating An Anti-Inflammatory Diet 

Changing your diet/eating habits can help to lower inflammation around the joints in the jaw, which would in turn help reduce swelling and joint deterioration. An anti-inflammatory diet could include:

  1.  Soups, stews, smoothies, cooked/steamed vegetables, and other soft foods that are easy to chew and high in nutrients
  2. Foods high in electrolytes (like magnesium, potassium, and calcium) such as leafy greens, cooked broccoli, and mashed sweet potatoes to help prevent muscle spasms
  3. Omega-3 foods, such as fish like salmon, to help fight inflammation naturally and improve circulation
  4. Eating small meals throughout the day to stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent fluctuations that can increase teeth clenching  Chiropractic treatment

Poor posture and problems with tightness of muscles in the cervical spine can contribute to jaw problems. As a matter of fact, the TMJ/Jaw is the strongest muscle in the body and can send tension to the rest of the body when tense, causing many of the symptoms seen in TMD.

How can chiropractors help with my TMJ? 

When thinking about a painful problem that has to do with your jaw or mouth, the first doctor you think of would probably be a dentist, not a chiropractic physician; however, a visit to your locally accredited chiropractor could be your solution to start alleviating your TMJ-related pain.

A study done by the Tokyo medical and dental university found that people who used natural practices and jaw exercises helped to reduce TMJ symptoms better and faster than those who used jaw splints. Participants who used holistic practices such as maintaining good posture and eating soft foods in their diet saw improvements in their mouth-opening range and reductions in pain more so than their counterparts who wore maxillary stabilization appliances while sleeping at night.

In Tallahassee, the demanding nature of academia in students and teachers alike can cause high stress levels that may lead to TMJ. Pragle Chiropractic and Massage Therapy provides a nurturing and calming environment, where clients of all types can alleviate their discomfort caused by TMJ with the AO treatment and the back treatment. As well, Dr. Eric provides deep tissue massage therapy that can help relieve the muscle tension around the temporomandibular joint through stimulating blood flow, which reduces inflammation.