TMJ Dysfunction has many causes

Whilst the exact cause of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction is not known, our Melbourne dentists understand that multiple factors can contribute to the muscle tightness and dysfunction of the TMJ.

The following conditions may affect the TMJ, causing temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD):

Misalignment of (or trauma to) the teeth or jaw

Teeth or jaw misalignment can result from:

  • Malocclusion (when the rows of teeth on the upper and lower jaws don’t quite align)
  • Recent trauma, such as whiplash or a knock to the head and facial area.

These instances can leave patients in ongoing pain and tenderness in the TMJ. Misalignment affects everyday activities such as talking, chewing and the general placement of the teeth while sitting at a desk or watching TV. Teeth misalignment can place stress on the jaw and neck, leading to postural symptoms in other parts of the body.

High velocity trauma can force the hinge of the TMJ to dislocate, and the jaw to protrude forward.

Teeth grinding and TMD

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxing or bruxism, can cause TMD by putting pressure on the muscles, tissues and supporting structures of the jaw. Whilst the two are not always related, they can present similar symptoms. This is because bruxism can occur due to teeth or jaw misalignment, and TMD is caused by misalignment of the jaw joint.

If left untreated, both teeth grinding and TMJ dysfunction can lead to long term discomfort, damage to the teeth, and even erosion of the jaw joint.

Stress and TMD

Stress can present as a number of physical symptoms. For some, it can appear as teeth grinding, jaw muscle tension and jaw clenching. This can lead to TMD in similar ways as teeth grinding mentioned above.

Poor posture of the neck and upper back muscles

Everyday activities such as staring at a computer with your jaw forward can place significant pressure on the lower neck. The resulting strain on the muscles of the face, neck and upper back can result in TMD symptoms. Assessment and corrective treatment of posture is required to reduce the impact this has caused on the temporomandibular joint.

Arthritis or other inflammatory musculoskeletal conditions

Arthritis and some other inflammatory conditions may affect the TMJ and give rise to TMD. Whilst the exact relationship between rheumatic and inflammatory disorders and TMD is unknown, it is thought that the pain, inflammation and stiffness in the joints, muscles, and bone caused by the primary disease may also affect the TMJ.

What are my next steps?

For a comprehensive assessment of your TMD and treatment options, book an assessment with us today.