TMJ Causes

What causes TMJ?

tmj-causes-reginaTMJ is an acronym for the term temporomandibular joint, your jaw joint. Your jaw joint is complex.

Not only does it allow you to open and close your mouth, it also allows you to move it backwards and forwards, and from side to side. These movements are essential for you to chew, bite, speak, yawn, whistle, and sing comfortably and effectively.

When your jaw joints are balanced and healthy, they function smoothly, but when your bite is out of alignment, your upper and lower teeth meet incorrectly in a what is often called a“bad bite”. How does your bite become misaligned?

TMJ Disorder Consultation

The five factors that can lead to TMJ

1. Airway Issues
Your tongue is an amazing muscle, and it does way more than just taste. You need your tongue to chew, talk, swallow, sing and kiss. Your tongue also acts as your jaw’s cushion. With a healthy bite, your tongue sits just behind your upper teeth, supporting your jaw and your upper dental arch, but, if you have a misaligned bite, the natural position of your tongue can be altered. When a mouth is too narrow or if there is an over-bite, the tongue can be forced too far back. This stops it from doing its jaw supporting  job properly, and puts it in the way of your airway. Childhood allergies can also result in a TMJ disorder. How?  When a child can’t breathe through their nose, they subconsciously switch to “plan B”, and breathe through their mouth. In order to allow air into your lungs effectively when you are breathing through your mouth, you must move your tongue away from the roof of the mouth.For a growing child, the dental arch support of the tongue is critical. Without it, the jaw may not grow as wide as it should leading to a constricted dental arch, and TJM issues later in life.
2. Misaligned bite

A misaligned bite can be the result of many conditions:

  • Childhood allergies
  • Thumb sucking
  • Worn or broken dental restorations
  • Shifted teeth due to tooth loss
  • Teeth grinding or bruxism
  • Accident or trauma

If your upper and lower teeth don’t meet in a way that’s comfortable for your jaw, the muscles in your jaw and face strain to compensate. To find relief, they try to pull your jaw into a more comfortable position but, because your bite is unbalanced, your jaw naturally slides back to the place where your teeth meet.

This continual battle between comfort and balance strains your jaw and surrounding muscles, and puts pressure on the nerves that run through them. As your jaw and face muscles fatigue, they call upon the muscles of your neck and shoulders to help. Left untreated, these muscle will eventually fatigue as well.

The result of this constant strain can be sore, painful muscles in your jaw, face, shoulders or neck, and cramped nerves that can create headaches, or numbness in your arms or hands. An misaligned bite also takes its toll on your teeth, sometimes changing the appearance of your face as your teeth begin to wear and shorten. You may start to see wrinkles , a change in the shape of your lips, or creases on the sides of your nose and mouth.

3. Skull Shape

Not every skull is perfect. As you travel the ups and downs of life, you may have had an event that impacted your skull and altered its shape. Here are a few examples of life events that can affect the shape of your skull:

  • Birth: The journey from the uterus through the narrow birth canal can place a great deal of force placed on a baby’s skull.
    While nature has devised a way to lessen the pressure – the soft and pliable nature of a baby’s skull – the pressures of birth can result in a misalignment of your baby’s jaws bones.
  • Growing: Every part of your skull, the bones, muscles, ligaments and joints, is connected. If, during the growth and development of your child’s skull an alteration occurs, the result cane be misalignment of the bite, and early onset TMJ. When a baby or small child’s bite is misaligned, it usually goes undetected until the child is mature enough to communicate their symptoms.
  • Injury or trauma: A blow to the head or anything that impacts the way you carry your head on the top of your neck, such as whiplash, can cause a jaw disorder.
4. Genetics
TMJ can be passed down from generation to generation. Genetic traits like tooth shape or positioning, or a narrow dental arch or small jaw can lead to a misaligned bite, which, in turn can contribute to painful TMJ symptoms.
5. Injury or trauma
Trauma can cause problems beyond the injury site. This is due to the fact that the intricate network of ligaments, muscles, joints, and nerves in your body are connected, and work as a unit.For example, a back injury can cause neck pain. This neck pain can affect how you are able to position of your head atop your spine. When your head is not in alignment with your spine, the function of your jaw can be affected causing TMJ discomfort.While an injury to the jaw can obviously be connected to a TMJ disorder, an injury to any part of your body can disturb the delicate balance of your bite.


The good news? Dental treatment options can help

  • Orthodontics can be used to reshape a narrow dental arch or correct tooth positioning
  • Dental veneers or bonding can change the shape of malformed teeth
  • Technology in the form of a TENS machine can help to relax tense jaw muscles so that your dentist can determine your natural balanced bite
  • Orthotics can help retrain jaw muscles

But the key to TMJ treatment is a correct diagnosis. If you suspect any of the factors noted above could have impacted your jaw function, please come if for a consultation

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