Chewing gum might be the cause of your headaches Friday, July 25, 2014 @ 12:33:43

Its called temporomandibular joint dysfunction or TMJD.  A physical problem carrying symptoms including dizziness and headaches, your ears may feel permanently clogged, even exaustion and mood swings can occur in extreme cases.

However, GPs and Dentists don't always recognise the condition, leading to the assumption that it is psychological and often misdiagnosed as depression. And some dental treatments used to treat jaw pain - such as tooth extraction - can make it worse.

Although with a string of sypmtoms like the ones mentioned above may well lead to depressive feelings I'd imagine.

The temporomandibular - the technical name for the jaw joint - works like a complex hinge, which can also slide back and forth. The jawbone is held in place by muscle attached to the joint next to the ear. A cartilage disc acts as shock absorber between the jaw and skull.

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction - also called temporomandibular joint disorder - is a broad term for any problem with the joint, the muscles around it or the cartilage disc. It can cause jaw pain, difficulty opening the mouth and sometimes a clicking noise.

The clicking itself isn't neccessarily a problem but it can be a sign that the different components in the jaw joint aren't working in harmony.

The condition affects one in five people at some point. A common cause is over-worked, inflamed muscles and ligaments around the jaw from chewing gum, or grinding teeth - often at night.

When you clench your teeth to grind them, the jaw joint can't slide around and this puts stress on the muscles, teeth, and joint.  A mouthguard worn at night to keep the top and bottom teeth separated can help the joint and allow the muscles to relax.

As well as tooth grinding, the jaw joint can be pushed out of alignment by a blow to the head, poorly fitting dentures, dental treatment, biting your nails, or even by yawning or opening your mouth widely to eat.

While the problem often clears up on its own, in severe cases the cartilage can slip too far out of place, leaving bone to rub against bone, causing wear and tear.

Other conditions, such as osteo-arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout flare-ups, can also cause stiffness, swelling and pain in the joint. Very rarely, TMJD may be caused by a tumour in the jawbone. The condition can cause headaches, as pain from the joint radiates to the side of the head, or because the muscles around it are in spasm. Pain can also radiate into the neck or back. Because the joint is so close to the ear, it can cause a blocked-up feeling, dizziness and tinnitus, too.

Patients with chronic TMJD need orthodontic treatment or surgery, but getting the right diagnosis can be difficult, a good Neuromuscular Tecnician along with a Dentist is who you should see.

Signs its a jaw joint problem

  • Clicking or popping as you talk or chew
  • Muscle spasms around the jaw
  • Difficulty opening the mouth
  • Tension headaches on the side of the head
  • Earache and/or ringing or buzzing in the ears (tinnitus)

TMJD pain can be relieved by washing out the joint to get rid of debris that might be causing irritation, or by injecting a steroid if there's inflammation. But this is not always a solution as the disc may not be restored to its correct position.

So why is this treatment not commonplace? There continues to be controversy and debate among professionals, which causes confusion to patients.

A lot of clinicians don't accept the problem is due to disc displacement. In part, because too few patients with the condition undergo MRI scans, so clinicians are unaware of any disc displacement.  Many don't believe splints can be effective either, and too often they give patients an off-the-peg plastic mouthguard, which can make symptoms worse.

People with tinnitus or blocked ears may get sent to ear, nose and throat specialists and GPs are also more switched on to depression, which may be why they assume it's psychological.

So bottom line...if you're suffering any or all of these symptoms, it might be worth to perhaps mention TMJD to whoever is treating you, it might be lifechanging...Or, give us a call on 02 9415 6868...we have an amazing Neuromuscular Technician - he'll have a chat to you about it at no cost.