Jaw pain can disrupt the normal movements of chewing, speaking, swallowing, and even fascial expressions.
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Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJD)
Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction, or often referred to as just “TMJ,” is impaired functioning of the temporomandibular articulation of the jaw. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a complex joint consisting of two separate joint capsules divided by an articular disc. The TMJ is the small joint at the front of each ear that attaches the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull. These joints allow the jaw to open and close, chew, speak, and swallow. TMJD is the dysfunction of this joint and surrounding musculature that cause jaw pain and disrupt the normal movements of chewing, speaking, swallowing, and facial expressions.
Because of its complex and shallow nature, the temporomandibular joint is easily dislocated. It typically dislocates anteriorly as the mandibular head slides anteriorly while opening the mouth. Temporomandibular joint syndrome is a painful disorder of this joint. The symptoms associated with this problem are pain in the ear and face, sore and tender jaw muscles, popping sounds in the joint when the mouth is opened, and pain and stiffness in the joint. This syndrome can have multiple causes. It can result from spasms in the muscles of mastication (chewing). This typically results from people who respond to stress by grinding their teeth. This syndrome can also result from an injury to the joint or as a result of malocclusion of the teeth.
Malocclusion is the faulty contact found between the upper and lower teeth when the jaw is closed or simply a bad bite. A bad bite would include protrusion (over bite) or retraction (under bite) of the lower jaw because of chewing difficulties, and abnormal wearing of the teeth or gum disease.
Bruxism is the habitual, involuntary grinding or clenching of the teeth, usually during sleep, and often associated with anger, tension, fear, or frustration. This then causes sensitive teeth, abnormal wearing of teeth, breaking of teeth, receding gum lines, loose teeth, sore facial muscles, headaches, and TMJ dysfunctions.
The tension and tightness in the jaw region can also cause other problems with the ear. Because of this tension in the muscles of the jaw it can allow water to get “stuck” more easily in the ear. This tension may also make it difficult for the ear to properly maintain air pressure in the middle ear especially when rapidly ascending and descending in altitude. This causes even more tension and pain in the region. Often by loosening the muscles of the jaw and opening the auditory or Eustachian tube can create great relief.