Jaw pain is a often result of damage to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). The TMJ is a unique joint in that it hinges and glides during its normal motion. This allows for our jaw to drop down and forward.
If you place your finger tips on your TMJ and slowly open your mouth and close it you can feel this hinging and gliding motion. The TMJ has an incredible amount of force applied to it with chewing. Think of compressing and biting down on a piece of ice. All the force that is used to crush the ice crosses through the TMJ.
Damage to the TMJ is called TMD. TMD stands for temporomandibular disorder. Damage to this joint can affect the muscles, joint capsule, and fibrocartilaginous disc. Damage to the TMJ can produce clicking or popping with opening and closing the mouth. A person might notice their chin deviate to the side when they slowly open. It can be painful to open, close, or chew.
Treating TMD is very difficult. It is not like your wrist, elbow, or shoulder joint that we can say please stop using. You will continue to talk and eat every day. This causes stress and strain to that joint and aggravates it with every bite. In addition it is very difficult to apply traditional physical therapy treatments to the TMJ because of its size and location. Many therapies provide minimal relief. TMD can produce neck, jaw, face, I, or headache pain. Some people experience exacerbation of their tension and migraine headaches with their TMD. Biting and grinding exacerbates their jaw and headache symptoms.
However Class IV cold laser therapy is an excellent tool at treating TMD. The cold laser works to decrease pain, muscle spasms, and inflammation across the TMJ and corresponding muscle. Treatment works to decrease the spasms of all muscles that affect the TMJ movement during opening and closing. Often the small muscles go into spasm which further complicates normal movements and recovery.
We often recommend seeing your dentist who can fit you with a mouth guard. Often people bite down or grind during the night which has caused their TMD, or continues to aggravate the condition. The mouth guard decreases the strain applied to the TMJ during the middle of the night. People often feel significant relief after wearing it for several weeks. They notice a difference when they forget to put it in one night; mainly how sore their jaw is in the morning.
The temporomandibular joint is an incredible joint with his hinge and glide motion. However trauma and damage to it requires a combination of treatment with your dentist and cold laser therapy to produces significant benefits.