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What is the TMJ? What does TMJ stand for?
The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ for short, is the joint responsible for opening and closing your mouth. It’s name comes from the interaction between the temporal bone (the bone on the side of your skull) and the mandible (a fancy way of saying the jaw bone).
The TMJ does not involve JUST bones
Like many other joints, the TMJ has a complex interactions of muscles, tendons, a TMJ disc, and ligaments to keep it stable and functioning properly.
Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction
TMD, or Temporomandibular joint dysfunction, occurs when these complex interactions are not working properly. Whether it be the joint structure, the disc, or tension in the musculature, increased stress on the joint begins to cause pain and discomfort.
What are symptoms of TMJ or TMD?
I get asked this question a great deal. First, it’s important to note that the TMJ is the joint itself; everyone has one! (two to be exact). Therefore, it’s impossible to have symptoms of TMJ.
Symptoms of TMD, however, typically involve pain in the front of the ear and along the jaw. This jaw pain can be while chewing, talking, or sometimes without doing anything at all.
What is Bruxism? Is that a symptom?
Bruxism is a fancy way of saying ‘teeth grinding’, which is commin in those suffering with TMD. Sometimes people experiencing grinding during stressful hours or during the night.
With increased grinding comes increased muscle tension and joint irritation. Bruxism is usually a contributor to TMJ pain, but not a symptom of it.
How to Fix TMJ pain and TMJ Pain treatment
Approximately 50% of all cases of TMD are the result of pain/tightness in muscles used to open and close the jaw. (Marbach, 1982)
Why is this important? Muscle pain and joint restriction can be managed with physical therapy. Reducing tension in the muscles involved in closing the jaw can easily reduce pain and improve the ability to eat, speak, and perform everyday activities without pain.
How to treat TMJ symptoms
Dr. Glackin’s unique physical therapy approach
Dr. Glackin utilizes dry needling to release deep muscles associated with jaw pain. Through the technique he learned and now helps teach in Bethesda, MD, Dr. Glackin releases these muscle to restore normal movement of the jaw and reduce stress on the joint and the disc.
He has implemented this technique in a wide variety of TMJ cases, including dental reconstruction, jaw reconstruction post-fracture, headaches, and TMJ dysfunction.
Is dry needling like acupuncture for TMJ?
Not quite. Although dry needling uses tools similar to acupuncture, acupuncture and dry needling are very different. Dry needling focuses on localized muscle and releases specific areas of restriction utilizing an evidence based approach.
Are there any other treatments for Jaw pain?
As a physical therapist by trade, Dr. Glackin ALWAYS recommends conservative management of symptoms before attempting injections or surgery. If conservative measures are not successful after a short time, then it’s best to consider other options.
Depending on the severity, an oral surgery consultation may be considered. Dental providers may also suggest customized mouthguards for TMD relief. If you are considering these options, discuss them with Dr. Glackin during your first evaluation.