What is temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction?
The temporomandibular joint connects your lower jaw to your skull, allowing your jaw to open and close for speaking and eating. You can feel the joint by placing your fingers in front of your ears and opening your mouth. Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders are conditions affecting the jaw joint and surrounding muscles and ligaments.
There are many different causes of TMJ disorders, making diagnosis difficult. Potential causes include habitual grinding or clenching of teeth, persistent stress, trauma to the jaw or joint, arthritis and structural jaw issues.
If TMJ disfunction it is not treated, it can cause persistent discomfort and tension in and around your jaw, joint inflammation and damage to your teeth.
What are the common symptoms of TMJ dysfunction?
The symptoms of TMJ disorders depend on the severity and cause of the condition.
The most common symptom of TMJ disorders is pain in the jaw and surrounding muscles. Other symptoms include pain in the face or neck, stiffness and limited movement of the jaw, a locked jaw, a clicking or popping sound from the TMJ site, wearing down of teeth, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), vertigo and headaches.
How can TMJ dysfunction impact your life?
TMJ disorder can make it difficult to live a normal, fulfilling life as it can affect your appearance, ability to socialise and sleep.
TMJ disfunction can make your face appear asymmetrical because it causes muscles to develop disproportionately and excessive tooth wear on one side of the face. Treatment with Botox can lessen the appearance of your jaw muscles and reduce facial asymmetry.
TMJ disorders can also cause significant weight changes because jaw pain can make it hard to eat. If someone manages the pain by eating less regularly or not at all, this can lead to unhealthy weight loss. Conversely, someone may choose to eat more processed foods like fast food and ice cream because they are softer and easier to eat, leading to unhealthy weight gain.
Many of the symptoms associated with TMJ disfunction can cause people to isolate themselves and avoid social outings. For example, changes in appearance may decrease your confidence around others and difficulty eating may be embarrassing at events.
Additionally, jaw pain can make it hard for people to speak clearly and makes smiling and laughing more difficult. This makes social interactions more difficult and less rewarding. It is also common for those with TMJ disorders to experience mood swings due to the stress of dealing with physical discomfort
TMJ pain can keep people up at night, reducing quality of sleep. A lack of sleep has many negative impacts on your health and life, for example reduced productivity, memory and ability to stay focussed.
What are the traditional treatments for TMJ dysfunction?
Traditional treatments for TMJ disfunction include using a nightguard to reduce the effects of grinding your teeth and having braces to straighten your teeth and align your jaws. These methods are only effective if TMJ disfunction is caused teeth grinding or structural jaw issues.
Treatments at The Mews Practice
At the Mews we offer both shockwave therapy and Botox to treat TMJ dysfunction. You would have a complimentary consultation to decide which is best for you.
Shockwave therapy is a non-surgical treatment that works by targeting impulses of energy to specific damaged tissues. This stimulates regeneration and repairs tissues.
To treat TMJ disfunction, the shockwaves travel to the temporomandibular joints where they stimulate blood flow and cause minor inflammations which stimulate healing and reduce pain. A recent study has shown that shock waves significantly reduce pain in TMJ disorder patients and improves the movement of the temporomandibular joint.
Although Botox is typically used for cosmetic purposes to minimise the appearance of wrinkles, it can also be used for therapeutic purposes. Since it’s primary function is to relax facial muscles, it can treat TMJ disorder by helping to relieve pain from tense muscles in the jaw. The Botox also helps to reduce the appearance of your jaw muscles at the same time as alleviating pain from clenching.
A study showed that Botox significantly decreases pain and improves jaw movement of TMJ disorder patients. These effects lasted for three months after the injection.
The role of myofascial therapy in TMJ disorder
Myofascial release is a gentle, hands on technique that involves working with the fascia, the main connective tissue in the body which holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fiber and muscle in place. Fascia contains a higher percentage of collagen and water than muscle, so responds differently to therapeutic touch. These myofascial releases relieve pressure on pain-sensitive structures such as nerves and blood vessels and restore mobility to muscles and joints. The effects of a myofascial treatment tend to be more profound and longer lasting than working with just muscle.
Shockwave therapy study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7328499/
Botox study: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22240328/