What causes TMJ?
TMJ 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?
The five factors that can lead to TMJ
1. Airway Issues
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.
5. Injury or trauma
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