TMJ – More Than a Pain in the Jaw | Dr. John H. Jones III DDS

LWMNovDec2014small_Page_19If you have chronic headaches and the doctors say it’s all in your head—it may be in your jaw. Temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ) is often overlooked in current diagnoses, yet it may be the cause of your pain symptoms.

TMJ takes its name from the temporomandibular joint, which holds the lower jaw in place. When the teeth are out of alignment with each other and with the jaw joints, the result is bite disharmony, muscle spasms and a wide range of seemingly unrelated very painful symptoms.

The predisposition to TMJ can remain inactive for years until triggered by trauma to the jaw or back, poor nutrition, or even simple stress. The resulting pain, ranging from indescribable headaches along with neck and back stiffness to vertigo, tinnitus, and numbness in the extremities, sends sufferers on an often fruitless search for diagnosis and treatment. The result of this search is often depression, as sufferers become resigned to a life of pain and dependence on potent and addictive painkillers.

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction syndrome (TMJ) is the name given to a group of symptoms, some skeletal and some dentally based. Many of these same symptoms are related to muscle spasms. The muscles involved in the spasms are those which control the movement of the lower jaw. We walk on two legs instead of four, consequently these muscles also balance the head, neck and shoulders.

Your upper teeth are connected rigidly to your skull. Slightly in front of your ears, on your skull, is a bone called the temporal bone. The lower jaw, which is called the mandible, is a horseshoe shaped bone. It is the only bone in the maxillofacial complex that moves. Its free ends rise upward and end in structures called condyles. The joint between the temporal bone of the skull and the condyles of the mandible is called the temporomandibular joint. Both condyles rest on a disc that separates the head of the condyles from the temporal bone of the skull. The TMJ is the only joint in the body that both rotates (like the hinge on a door) and translates or slides smoothly (like an ice skater gliding across ice). There is a complex group of muscles and ligaments that interact with one another to open, close, balance and stabilize the mandible (lower jaw) using the right and left TMJ as the connection between the mandible and the skull.

TMJ is basically a muscle-spasm problem. Because of this, standard diagnostic tests, blood work-ups, EEGs, or X-rays yield minimum information necessary for a correct diagnosis. Often a sufferer is led to believe that little can be done for the problem except to block the pain rather than attacking the reason for it.

When there is a confirmed diagnosis of TMJ dysfunction most treatment centers around the group of muscles that move, stabilize and balance the mandible. A mandibular orthopedic repositioning appliance or M.O.R.A is designed and delivered to the patient with instructions on how to wear it. Proper M.O.R.A wear will eliminate the muscle spasms (deprogram the muscles) and correct the mandibular open and closing movements to one that is noise free, pain free, balanced and stable (reprogram the muscles).

Now that we have achieved a noise free, pain free and stable open and closing pathway for the mandible (lower jaw), we need to correct the bite.

Using orthodontic treatment we next need to properly align the teeth in the maxilla (upper arch) with the teeth in the mandible (lower arch) to bring them into harmony. Depending upon the case, we can use routine fixed orthodontic appliances (braces) or aligner therapy (Invisalign) to coordinate the upper and lower teeth in such a manner that they enhance both the now healthy TMJ’s and the now healthy muscles that open and close the lower jaw.

Successful TMJ treatment should resolve most, if not all of the symptoms associated with TMJ syndrome and on top of that leave you with a brilliant, healthy smile.


What is TMJ? Simply put, it is a pain syndrome that leads to some or all of the following symptoms:

• Headaches • Aching or stiff neck • Aching or stiff shoulders • Backaches • Earaches, ear fullness, ringing in the ears, or pain associated with the ears • Jaw pain • Popping or clicking in the jaw joint • Facial pain • Numbness in the fingers and toes • Vertigo (dizziness) • Undiagnosable tooth pain.

By: John H. Jones III, DDS
Jones Orthodontics
20 Pidgeon Hill Dr. #206 • Sterling, Va 20165
703-421-0893 •

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