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TMJ | temporomandibular dysfunction | Osteopath Balwyn

What does Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJD) tell you?

Written by Dr Katie Willy

TMJ | temporomandibular dysfunction | Osteopath Balwyn

What is temporomandibular dysfunction?

The 2 bones of that form your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) are the temporal bone of the skull and the mandible which is the lower jaw bone. Their design shape, like every bone in the body, shows us how they are meant to move on each other, what we call articulation. When they don’t move in this particular way it can be genuine trouble, and is called temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD or TMD).

Thing is, the TMJ’s (there’s 2 of them, 1 on each side) have the potential to go out of balance and become dysfunctional for many reasons (see our page on Jaw & TMJ Pain).  It will stay this way unless you are re-taught how to move your lower jaw well again, in the way it was mechanically designed move.  Take a look at our video here to show you what is meant to happen in your jaw.

What’s the problem then with TMJD?

Well let’s break it down. We (you and I) just move our mouth on auto-pilot (unless we have discomfort), completely unaware of the mechanical flow that exists between the 2 bones. The problem for the TMJD sufferer is that their jaw is moving in a different way. It’s somewhat functional because the jaw is opening and closing, but it is stressing the joints because it’s a “clunky” motion. It’s also hard to work out what to do to move differently often feeling like a mystery as to where the issue is and therefore how to fix the jaw.

What do sufferers usually do?

Usually they resort to scans, splinting, massage and maybe even a TMJ specialist. Often they can show you there’s your issue from the picture, maybe show you how your jaw is rotated, uneven, tilted or the like, which is information BUT it doesn’t teach you how to create a new auto-pilot pattern so your jaw bone flows easily again. You may be advised to have surgery to fix your upper jaw or lower jaw, cutting wedges or lengths out of the bone to sit it “right”.

But maybe you don’t need that. Some practitioners look at the body differently.

What if the answer was more simple?

What if the answer was about increasing your awareness of how you are moving your jaw “wrong” (for want for a better expression) to then be able to show you what “right” is and teach you that. This is our process. Understanding why the pain or dysfunction exists, and how to to get the balance back into the joints with movement. Yes we massage the tight muscles but only to support the movement basis of the therapy.

Here are some things to look for in your jaw mobility to see if this could also be your situation!

Take a LOOK in the mirror…

  1. when you open your mouth do you get a clunk? (it shouldn’t – there is stress on the disc)
  2. when you open your mouth SLOWLY, do you see it deviate side-to-side? (it shouldn’t deviate when you are simply opening your mouth)
  3. with your hands rested on your face in front of your ears, when you slowly open, do you feel the top of the jaw bone just in front of your ears, push sideways? (it shouldn’t – you are likely to be shunting you jaw forwards instead of opening the way your jaw is designed to!)

But I’ve had temporo-mandibular treatment before…

Maybe you’ve had trigger point therapy and adjustments to try and relieving tension in the muscles around the TMJ, neck and spinal joints. This can be helpful but the problem often comes back because you keep opening your mouth the same way you were before and re-stress the joint. The cycle continues relief, re-aggravate, until you change how you move the joint. And that my friend comes from someone showing you and re-training your pattern.

If you have issues with you jaw we can assess to see what you might be able to change. It’s liberating to experience a jaw that opens cleanly!

Need some help with your TMJ issue?

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