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TMJD Treatment: A Sun Prairie, WI Chiropractor’s Perspective

TMJD Treatment Sun Prairie WI

When most people think of chiropractic, they immediately think of neck pain, back pain, or headaches. However, chiropractors can help with numerous other musculoskeletal conditions including temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD). TMJD is actually the second most common musculoskeletal disorder just after low back pain, affecting 12% of the population at any one time.

TMJD is a condition that stumps most dentists but the temporomandibular joint is just like any other joint in the body. It needs to move and track properly for optimal function. The temporomandibular joint is a hinge joint, moving back and forth as the mouth opens and closes. The joint is located in front of the ear, where the jaw bone meets the temporal bone of the skull. Between the jaw bone and the skull bone is a disc that cushions the joint. When the mouth opens, this disc slides forward with the joint. Dysfunction of this joint occurs when the disc moves improperly or the joint itself is restricted due to surrounding tissue. Common symptoms of TMJD include pain in the jaw, trouble chewing and talking, headaches, and neck pain.

Most people with TMJD seek their dentist or another oral care provider for treatment. Splints, botox injections, and even surgery are the common resolutions for TMJD but any of these solutions can be quite costly. They also don’t address the root cause of the problem. The doctors at Noble Choice Chiropractic have special training in the treatment of TMJD by addressing the misalignment of the joint and soft tissue restrictions. They’ll also guide you on at-home care, such as jaw exercises and stretches and which foods to avoid.

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How We Treat TMJD Pain in Sun Prairie, WI

Comprehensive Consultation and Exam

Sometimes people with TMJD wonder if starting with a chiropractor is the correct first step, and the answer is yes! Our doctors will sit down with you, listen to your story, and learn how TMJD has affected your life. We have had patients in tears describing the difficulty they have eating or yawning, fearing that their jaw will lock open or closed. TMJD can really interrupt your life, and or goal is to understand your struggles. Once we feel like we have all the history we need, we’ll perform specific tests to determine if the root of the problem is your jaw or somewhere else, like your neck. We’ll also examine the range of motion of your jaw in terms of opening and lateral deviation to determine if there are any mobility issues. Again, chiropractors excel at detecting and correcting joint dysfunction.

Specific Chiropractic Care

After the temporomandibular joint is thoroughly examined, we’ll begin the process of adjustments. The disc, or cushion that is located between the jaw bone and temporal bone often becomes misaligned with TMJD. Gentle chiropractic adjustments with a small instrument called an activator help to restore alignment and decrease pain. The activator helps the adjustment be both effective and comfortable for the patient.

In addition to adjustments to the temporomandibular joint, the neck needs to be addressed as well. The TMJ may be affected when the vertebrae in the neck are out of alignment. Specific adjustments to the vertebrae in the neck help with the overall function of the neck and jaw, which also results in less pain.

Soft Tissue Work

As with any joint, the temporomandibular joint is surrounded by muscles that help to support and move the joint. The three main muscles are the masseter (felt in the cheeks), temporalis (felt in the side of the head), and pterygoid (felt from inside the mouth). With TMJD, these muscles can become tight and irritated. The doctors in our office know specific soft tissue techniques to release the muscles along with teaching YOU how to address the muscles at home. We’ll also give you exercises to perform at home to help stabilize the temporomandibular joint in conjunction with adjustments.

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Common Symptoms of TMJD

Jaw Pain

One of the most common symptoms of temporomandibular joint dysfunction is jaw pain. This is generally described as a dull ache along the jaw but can also be felt into the ear. Because the temporomandibular joint is used so frequently throughout the day with movements such as talking, chewing, and laughing, the pain is felt almost constantly. It is commonly associated with neck pain and headaches which makes the pain even more difficult to bear.

There are many causes of jaw pain but some are more common than others. For example, we often hear about jaw pain after recent dental work. This is because holding the mouth open for a prolonged period stresses the muscles of the jaw and the joint itself. Repetitive actions such as chewing gum, jaw clenching, or grinding teeth can also cause jaw pain.

Jaw Popping or Clicking

Many people complain of a popping or clicking noise in the jaw when opening or closing the mouth. In some cases, there is pain associated with this noise but more often it is just an annoying occurrence.

The pop or click noise occurs when the disc between the jaw joint is displaced too far forward instead of between the jawbones. When this happens, the jaw bone contacts the disc and creates an audible noise when the mouth moves. To fix this, the disc needs to be moved back to its correct position so the TMJ can move smoothly and properly.

Jaw Locking

A more serious symptom of temporomandibular joint dysfunction is jaw locking. This occurs when the disc is completely displaced forward. Then the mouth opens, the jaw bone isn’t able to translate completely forward, making it difficult to fully open the mouth.

Jaw locking can be very disruptive to life. Actions such as eating, talking, and laughing become difficult and frustrating to deal with. In order to address a locked jaw, the muscles need to be released. Once this happens, the jaw joint and disc are allowed to be put back in their normal position.

Jaw Clenching

Clenching of the jaw usually occurs during times of stress or anxiety. While most of us have clenched our jaw at some point in our lives, chronic clenching causes tightness and adhesions to develop in the muscles around the TMJ. Over time this becomes problematic as it can lead to other concerns like tension headaches and teeth scalloping.

If you’re clenching, even while asleep is caused by stress or anxiety it is important to incorporate stress-relieving techniques into your life. Yoga and meditation are great habits to learn, helping to decrease daily life stress.

Difficulty Chewing

It can be very frustrating to avoid certain foods because you know your jaw will hurt. Chewy foods such as steak, jerky, bread, or candy often aggravate TMJD because of a limited range of motion of the joint or disc displacement.

If chewing food is difficult for you, we must get to the cause of the problem. If the jaw is locked, then proper alignment must be restored. If the muscles are restricted, they must be released to allow for the proper range of motion of the jaw. At Noble Choice Chiropractic, we work with all kinds of TMJD problems every day.

Frequently Asked Questions About TMJD

Can chiropractic in Sun Prairie, WI help with jaw pain?

Absolutely! At Noble Choice Chiropractic, our doctors have received advanced training in the treatment of temporomandibular dysfunction. We’ve had amazing results with our TMJD patients!

Can chiropractors crack jaws?

The jaw isn’t adjusted like other joints in the body. We are able to safely stabilize the joint by using a handheld device called an Activator. This tool gently restores motion and function to the joint with no pain.

Is TMJD a medical or dental problem?

TMJD is a joint problem. The truth is, many dentists refer to us because we specialize in joint dysfunction and the jaw is no different.

Can you fix TMJD without surgery?

Yes! The vast majority of our patients with TMJD have been helped by a combination of gentle adjustments and soft tissue work. There are always extreme cases that require other interventions but most people can fix TMJD with our non-surgical care.

What happens if TMJD is left untreated?

Just like any problem left untreated, it will only get worse. It’s best to seek care with the initial onset of jaw symptoms.


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