Patient with TMJ

Seattle Chiropractor, TMJ Chiropractor

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The letters TMJ are an abbreviation for an anatomical area in your body. The “T” is your temporal bone, which is the bone directly under your temple. The “M” represents your mandible bone which is more commonly referred to as your jaw. The “J” is an abbreviation for the hinge joint that connects the temporal bone and the mandible. Without your TMJ you wouldn’t be able to talk or chew.  

What is TMJD?  And how do I know if I have it?

TMJD is the term physicians use when referring to dysfunction in the jaw. Every person has a TMJ, but not everyone has TMJD. There are also quite a few people that have TMJD and are asymptotic, so they have TMJD and don’t even know it. If you’re wondering if you have TMJD it just takes a quick trip to the bathroom mirror. When you open and close your mouth, your jaw should move up and down in a straight line similar to an “I”. If you open or close your jaw and it zig-zags and looks more like a “Z” then you technically have a dysfunctional TMJ.

BUT – don’t panic. If you don’t have pain, popping, or clicking and it’s not affecting your quality of life, I wouldn’t recommend trying to fix it. Just keep a vigilant eye on it and if symptoms persist, head to your nearest TMJ doctor. If you do have symptoms, such as pain, headaches, popping and clicking, difficulty chewing then head to your nearest TMJ doctor right away for treatment.    

Who IS a TMJ doctor?

If you’re thinking it’s your dentist, you’re probably going to be going to the wrong provider. The first person most people think to see for TMJD is the dentist since it’s a mouth problem. BUT dentists are typically trained to evaluate and treat conditions of the teeth and bite, and not the joint of the jaw itself. It may surprise you that most chiropractors have been trained to evaluate and treat symptoms of TMJ. Sometimes the pain you’re experiencing can even be caused by the powerful muscles in and around your jaw so intraoral massage performed by a licensed massage therapist is going to be the best treatment for your TMJD.     

What causes TMJD and what is the treatment like?

There are several potential causes of TMJD.  According to the Mayo Clinic website, “Painful TMJ disorders can occur if: the disk erodes or moves out of its proper alignment, the joint’s cartilage is damaged by arthritis, or the joint is damaged by a blow or other impact.” TMJD has also been linked to poor posture and poor neck alignment.  

Once someone has a proper diagnosis, TMJD treatment can include gentle jaw adjustments, massage of the muscles in and around your neck and mouth, at-home exercises to improve jaw and neck alignment, and sometimes mouth guards. The first step is to consult with a chiropractor for proper diagnosis and treatment.  


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