What causes TMJ dysfunction?
We are all exposed to stresses in our environment.
Let us call these external stresses. A typical reaction to these stresses is muscle contraction: tight shoulders and neck, bailed fists, and clenched jaws. If the jaws are habitually clenched, due to a lot of stress, anxiety, and/or frustrations, and if the teeth do not support the jaws properly, then the jaw joints become jammed and overclosed, causing damage to the joints. This may occur with totally natural teeth, (even in teenagers), with partially natural plus some false teeth; with full dentures.
External jaw muscles
Usually the disc in the joint is pushed forward, the back ligament of the disc becomes stretched and inflamed, and the knobs (condyles) in the joint make the displaced disc pop or crunch when the jaw is opened and closed. After many years of this, there may be arthritic changes in the joint, a one-way degenerative process. This damage to the TMJs, and the associated muscle spasm, causes pain, not only in the joints themselves, but through muscle spasms in other parts of the body, resulting in many of the symptoms listed above. The pain syndromes then cause, in addition to the external stress, internal stress which further saps the body and spirit of energy.
If the suffering patient could permanently relax and not clench his/her jaws, the symptoms related to TMJ dysfunction would disappear.
The slogan: "Lips together, teeth apart, From this habit do not depart", may help, if consistently practiced.
The Real Answer, however, is to find that position of the lower jaw, using the Myomonitor, or other suitable procedures, where all jaw muscles can clench and contract in balanced harmony without jamming, overloading and damaging the jaw joints, and pressing adversely on bones of the skull.
A specially-trained and experienced dentist can help to diagnose and measure the muscle spasm and joint damage. He can begin the treatment of TMJ disorder by repositioning the lower jaw with a carefullyfitted plastic bite splint to allow the damaged joints to heal.
Improper nutrition, as well as excessive consumption of "junk food", and lack of adequate vitamins and minerals can cause considerable additional internal stress and thus contribute to TMJ disorders. A nutritional analysis to establish the individual's nutritional profiles and needs goes a long way toward relieving stress of TMJ origin.
Only after orthopedic repositioning of the lower jaw and relieving over-loaded jaw joints, and after eliminating stressful eating habits, should we consider Biofeedback training and relaxation methods. Unless structural changes are made, as soon as a stressful experience reoccurs, the still unbalanced and unsupported jaws will be clenched and the TMJs will be overloaded again.
The cooperation of various health-care providers in achieving a balance between mind, body structure and body chemistry may lead to a healthier, happier and more productive life.
Elimination of TMJ dysfunction plays a key role in achieving this goal.
(By R.L. Bubenzer, DDS, FAGD)