TMJ Basics

The (TMJ) Temporomandibular Joint is the structural component of your body that is responsible for many of the common head pain problems. When the TMJ suffers damage many symptoms ensue:

  • Migraines/Headaches
  • Dizziness/Vertigo/Meniere’s/Ear Pain/Tinnitus
  • Jaw pain/Facial pain
  • Neck Pain

Please review the Migraines Explained page in order to learn why the TMJ is responsible for head pain.

What is TMJ?

The TMJ is the most complex joint in the body. It can slide, rotate, and move side to side. It is completely dependent on a healthy cartilage for function, stability, and protecting the brain and ears from damage. The joint area is only protected by less than 1/4 inch of skull bone. Any damage to the joint area causes a direct 'blow' to the brain tissue every time you chew or bite your teeth together. Many times, this goes unnoticed, yet it is responsible for migraines, headaches, and most head pain problems.

The TMJ has many nerve branches that run near, through and around it. Specifically, the trigeminal nerve is 'intimate' with the TMJ. The medical community is very aware that head pain problems, particularly migraines, are 'mediated' by the trigeminal nerve. Damage to the TMJ and irritation the the trigeminal nerve are responsible for 99% of all migraines. The reason that migraines continue to be misdiagnosed and treated ineffectively is due to lack of proper TMJ evaluation. Migraines are not a mystery! They are just simply a lack of diagnosis due to limited knowledge.

The TMJ remains one of the most poorly understood joints in the human body. There is very little education and training by dental and medical schools when it comes to fully understanding how this joint affects the human body. There is also a lack of professional cooperation on providing diagnosis and optimal therapeutic treatment measures. A lot of this has to do with the complexity of the treatments required as well as managing the patient’s needs. Most doctors don’t want the challenge.

The TMJ is NOT an isolated joint that helps your lower jaw to move. It is a complex structure that is responsible for the blood and nerve flow of your head and brain. Proper TMJ treatment is nearly 100% effective in reducing most head pain complaints. Finding this treatment is often difficult for most patients due to lack of specialists who offer such care. Many times, providers attempt to treat these problems only to find out that they lack the skill and knowledge needed to provide pain relief. Some promise patients false hope only to find out that they lack the knowledge or experience to provide optimal care.

Bruxism and clenching is often diagnosed as the reason behind TMJ problems. Bruxism is defined as a “repetitive jaw-muscle activity characterized by clenching or grinding of the teeth as well as bracing or thrusting of the mandible.’ Bruxism occurs in adults and children, with an incidence of 20% in adults. The definition given is responsible for some of the misunderstanding of the problem. Bruxism and clenching are NOT the same. Bruxism normally involves side to side, back and forth, and up and down biting movements. Clenching is usually an up/down biting movement whereby you squeeze your teeth together. There are some common causes behind these habits:

  • Anxiety and stress.
  • Sleep apnea.
  • Parasitic infections.
  • Psychological problems

Bruxism and clenching will eventually cause TMJ damage and head pain symptoms. The TMJ will ultimately have cartilage damage as a result of bruxism and clenching as the teeth will suffer with enamel wear and even intrusion. Loss of tooth support for the bite ultimately leads to damage of the cartilage in the joints. As the teeth lose anatomy so does the TMJ. Genetics can also play a role, especially in patients who are born with overbites. Likewise, loss of teeth can also cause cartilage damage which can remain 'silent' without any apparent clinical signs. Most humans will use the TMJ over 5,000 times per day. This frequency of use can mask symptoms in severely damaged jaw joints and patients can present clinically with no symptoms of pain or problems.

That cartilage and joint damage will eventually lead to common head pain symptoms:

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    Brain Fog

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    Jaw Pain

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    Facial Pain

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    Ear Pain

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    Neck Pain

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    And More

Bruxism and clenching need to be controlled before the TMJ starts to suffer from cartilage damage. The problem with most treatments rendered by general dentists is due to incorrectly designed bite splints. Standard full coverage orthotics can cause more clenching and bruxing which eventually leads to more pain.

Many people, including dentists and doctors, continue to wrongfully believe that the TMJ needs to make popping and clicking noises to be considered damaged. Such sounds normally only indicate a minor problem as many people experience TMJ sounds. Chronic pain sufferers often have no TMJ symptoms such as joint pain or popping or clicking.

The TMJ controls most of the nerve and blood flow to your head.

Damage to the TMJ cartilage will lead to all of the above-mentioned symptoms.

TMJ and all related head pain problems are NOT a mystery. They are problems that can easily be diagnosed and conservatively treated with nearly 100% success rate.

For Self-Diagnosis help to determine whether you may have an underlying and hidden TMJ problems, click here.

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