TMJ Symptoms & Treatments
Temporomandibular joint syndrome (often called TMD, temporomandibular joint dysfunction) can be a tricky condition to treat. You or someone you know, may have suffered for years or even decades with minimal answers even after facing multiple TMJ symptoms & treatments.
Just like other difficult conditions I see in my office, many people don’t know and many doctors don’t investigate other potential root causes for jaw pain caused by sore jaws. By taking a holistic full body approach to chronic jaw pain, our office has been able to find solutions based upon other causes than just mechanical misalignment that often provide both short-term and more importantly long-term TMJ treatments for sore jaw & jaw pain.
Given how complex the TMJ symptoms & treatments can be, finding the right doctor or group of doctors to help you may be the most difficult part in achieving long-lasting results. But rest assured that jaw surgery should not be the first option for your TMJ symptoms.
The Following May Be Signs of TMJ Symptoms
TMD Symptoms (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction)
Some of the most commonly known symptoms of TMJ syndrome are:
- Jaw pain
- Decreased mouth opening (should be at least 3 knuckles wide)
- Neck pain
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Some of the less common symptoms that can be related to TMD include brain inflammation, digestive disturbances, emotional instability, hormonal imbalance and immune disorders.
Finding the Root Cause of TMJ Pain is Key
The question with any health condition is whether the condition is the primary problem or whether it is the result of another root level condition causing a TMJ problem. In the case of the TMJ, very few practitioners are searching for deeper causes of TMJ dysfunction, but I have found clinically that the deeper you search the better results you can get.
Part of the reason more doctors aren’t searching deeper is because we have become very specialized in traditional medicine and it becomes near impossible to arrive at some of the conclusions I will share in this article, because the TMJ is probably one of the most common clinical problems that is associated with multiple systems that crosses a variety of specialties.
What I mean is that a TMJ problem almost always appears muscular or mechanical when in fact 80% of the time (or more) it is the immune system, insulin dysregulation, chemical intolerance or a previous distant injury in the body that is altering its function.
What does that mean?
It means that if you treat the TMJ directly you won’t get much relief if the problem is coming from somewhere else.
The details of the TMJ get quite complex, but the most important takeaway from the anatomy is that the TMJ is controlled by muscles. Not rocket science, but understanding what alters muscular balance related to the TMJ is critical if you want the best results possible. The major muscles controlling the TMJ are the masseters, lateral pterygoids, medial pterygoids, buccinators and temporalis.
If we only looked at the immediate muscles surrounding the TMJ then we would not be very holistic. Even if we include the remaining muscles in the neck and upper back, it’s still only “muscle-centric”.
What exactly is happening in TMD?
The temporomandibular joint (jaw joint) is a hinge joint that connects the lower jaw to the temporal bone of the skull. The joint is flexible, which allows it to smoothly move up and down as well as side to side. Normally this allows you to talk, chew and yawn without pain. The muscles surrounding the jaw control the position and the movement of the jaw.
Some of the most common problems with TMD are synovitis, capsulitis, tendonitis, arthritis and disc derangement. If you look at that list, almost all TMJ dysfunctions are related to inflammation. In my office, I rarely find inflammation to be the direct root cause of jaw pain very often, so what is the story?
The jaw is connected on both sides to the skull, just like a bucket handle is connected on both sides to a bucket. When either side is even slightly off, due to muscular imbalances you end up with TMJ dysfunction. What most often causes the joint to be slightly off to the font/back or left/right is the muscles that attach to it.
Standard TMJ treatments look mostly at symptoms and not root causes. At home treatments for TMD suggested by WebMD, are limited to not using your jaw (really?), eating only soft foods or simply using it less. This is what I call avoidance of the problem.
Dentists will focus on alignment of the teeth and at times will refer out to specialists for night splints or as a last result surgery. There are more conservative dentists and less conservative dentists, so finding the right one for you or getting multiple opinions may be best.
For a little more on TMJ dysfunctions, I found these two videos to be very easy to understand and they cover the two major TMJ dysfunctions that I see in practice often.
Why You Get The TMJ Pain Explained
TMJ & Myofascial Pain Syndrome Explained
Doesn’t a Dentist Treat TMJ / TMD?
First, let us not negate the fact that dentists can help you with some of the contributing factors to developing TMD. If you have damage to occlusal surfaces, supporting structures, dental neglect, periodontal disease or a recent traumatic injury affecting your TMJ they can definitely help restore proper occlusion.
Other than the rare scenario and the above mentioned problems, I mostly view TMJ disorders as a musculo-skeletal condition caused by body functions going awry.
Many chiropractors have had success treating TMD for years, even without a holistic view, utilizing only the chiropractic adjustment. Things like ultrasound therapy, cold laser and joint manipulation provide much benefit as they alter the surrounding musculature of the jaw.
TMD Jaw Pain Cycle
What affects the Muscles (TMJ)?
For each and every condition there is a group of muscles and conditions that directly affect how well the muscles function in that area. For the TMJ some of the major considerations are head trauma, blood sugar imbalances, immune conditions and chemical intolerance/heavy metals.
Head trauma can cause injury to the intricate muscles that balance the TMJ. Actually, trauma or injuries to anywhere in the body can cause the TMJ to dysfunction. The TMJ acts as one of the body’s many “gyroscopes” that helps to maintain balance and keep the head level. Something as small as back pain on the right or a “bad left knee” or a shoulder that is rotated forward can be enough to throw your TMJ “gyroscope” out of balance and make muscles have to change their position to compensate.
Some dental work including braces can also alter the mechanics of the TMJ and can often show up as injuries or compensations in the treatment process.
Blood Sugar Imbalances
Dysglycemia is a disorder when your body is having a hard time balancing blood sugar. This can be due to stress, processed foods, low nutrition diet or inadequate protein intake. The majority of this balancing occurs between the pancreas and the adrenal glands. The pancreas releases insulin when blood sugar is high sugar and the adrenal glands release adrenalin and noradrenalin when blood sugar is low.
This push and pull balancing act can easily go wrong when someone eats too many refined and processed foods or has high levels of stress in their lives. You may have a blood sugar imbalance affecting your TMJ if you experience headaches, shakiness, brain fog, and either fatigue or energy after eating.
Dentist Dr. James Ooye, D.D.S. he states, “Hypoglycaemia is directly related with temporomandibular joint (jaw joint) disturbances through the electromagnetic system. Experience has shown that practically all TMJ syndromes involve hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Correcting TMJ problems often results in improvement of or correction of the symptoms just listed.”
Dr. David Eggleston, D.D.S. when talking about the TMJ reports, ““Abnormal function of the nervous and endocrine system (including the immune system) with no underlying structural deformity of these systems, is considered a functional disorder. When the patient is under distress the nervous system and the endocrine system send out their distress signals. When the person is under distress, the signals from these two systems are not normal and functional disorders occur.”
Applied Kinesiologists have long been considered the geeks of the TMJ treatments. The reason is because we realize that the TMJ can cause pain and dysfunction throughout the entire body. One of the discoveries found through applied kinesiology is the link between the TMJ and the immune system. The thymus and spleen are the major immune organs that can affect the TMJ. In today’s day an age with autoimmune conditions running rampant and chronic inflammation being at an all-time high, this is a common problem.
In addition to the thymus and spleen, heavy metals and chemicals sensitivities can also alter the immune system and thus be reflected in TMJ function. If you are someone that can’t walk into a perfume store without getting a headache, you may have chemical intolerance. Heavy metals are a common exposure specifically because traditional amalgams contain up to 50% mercury by weight.
All common scents including perfumes and the smell of food like bananas, strawberries and almonds, all get their smell from a chemical group called aldehydes. This sensitivity to smells can be a metabolic problem often associated with candida infections and molybdenum deficiency.
It can also be a problem with free radicals and the depletion of antioxidants. Deeper exploration of stealth infections and metabolic issues associated with allergies and inflammation can be critical to healing chronic TMJ disorders.
TMJ Symptoms, Treatments & Our Favorite TMJ Supplements
The three most common supplements I use in standard TMJ treatments are Chinese Coptis, Andrographis Immune and Activate Bamboo Charcoal.
Andrographis Immune (buy here) is designed to stabilize the immune system. It works as an immune adaptogen which can increase immune response if needed and calm immune response if necessary also.
Chinese Coptis (buy here) is used to optimize blood sugar function to relieve stress on the adrenals as well as to address any stealth or hidden digestive issues. Hidden digestive issues often contribute to immune stimulation and thus jaw pain and inflammation.
Activated Bamboo Charcoal (buy here) is designed to remove toxins and heavy metals from the body. This takes a lot of the stress off of the body systems and immune system. It allows muscles to function properly.
TMJ problems can be difficult to treat when only taking single-faceted approach. If you have tried some of the basic traditional methods of TMJ treatments without success , looking deeper to systemic conditions is often necessary and more importantly will give better results.
Things like night guards, splints and avoidance give you as a patient a way to dig deeper. Finding the proper doctor that looks into deeper root causes is important in the resolution of difficult, long-standing TMD cases.
To book your TMJ treatments with our office to resolve your chronic jaw pain and TMJ symptoms, click here.
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