Jaw Joint Disorders
TMJ is short for ‘temporomandibular joint’, also known as the jaw joint. It can be felt by placing your fingers just in front of your ears, and opening and closing your mouth.
Emotional stress and strain may cause prolonged tension in the jaw muscles and possible dysfunction of the TMJ. A disorder may affect one or both joints, often causing pain and limiting jaw function. You may even experience pain when chewing, yawning or opening your mouth wide.
Other symptoms may include:
Your dentist will refer you to a physiotherapist who will provide you with a jaw exercise program to help reduce these symptoms. Attempt this example if you feel you are experiencing TMJ dysfunction:
Sit in a comfortable chair in front of a mirror with the back teeth resting together, and relax. Allow the tip of your tongue to rest just behind your front teeth. Slowly curl the tongue backwards so that you feel it running over the hard palate and then against the soft palate. Continue to push the tongue back as hard as you can, keeping it in contact with the soft palate, and then slowly open your mouth.
Use the mirror to check that you are opening vertically, and not deviating to one side. Most people find that the tip of the tongue is pulled away from the palate as the mouth is opened wide. Do not allow this to happen. Hold this position of conflict for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds and then repeat the exercise.
If your jaw clicks at any time during the exercise, this will mean that you are not doing it properly, and so start again from the beginning.
The purpose of the exercise is to pull the jaw backwards as hard as possible and relax the muscles which pull the jaw forward. This takes the strain off ligaments in the joints and allows them to heal. Initially, you may find that there is no improvement, and the pain may seem to get worse. Do not get discouraged. After the first week, do the exercise for many short periods each day and a slow but gradual improvement will follow.