TMJ FAQs Alexandria, VA

Q: What is TMJ?

A: The acronym stands for temporomandibular joint, and sometimes, somewhat inaccurately, for temporomandibular joint disorder. TMD is the more accurate term for the disorder, and the two acronyms can be used interchangeably. It can also be called craniomandibular disorder.

Q: What is the temporomandibular joint?

A: We have two temporomandibular joints; they are the joints that allow the jaws to move.

Q: What is TMJ disorder?

A: A disorder of the jaw joints that causes pain or difficulty moving the jaws, and can cause other symptoms throughout the head and possibly elsewhere in the body.

Although TMJ disorders are multifactorial in nature through phase I treatment, it is determined if correcting the bite will alleviate the symptoms to a degree which we can confidently move forward to phase II (a more irreversible phase of treatment such as braces, or restorative treatment or combination of the two).

During phase I, which is the diagnostic phase, we will determine if considering co- therapies such as physical therapy or chiropractic care for example is beneficial.

Postural muscles, neck and TMJ work in tandem to create a functional system  of airways and breathing, sleeping, movement and strength, and optimum head and neck posture.

Q: What causes TMJ disorder?

A: The TM joints start working as soon as a baby is born and cries. To deal with a lifetime of work, the joints are cushioned by soft tissue discs. But in time, the smooth operation of the jaw joints can wear down, despite nature’s design. Sometimes poor dentition or a bad bite can make it worse.

Q: What are the symptoms?

A: There are numerous symptoms of TMJ disorder. They can include pain in the jaws, headaches, difficulty opening or closing the mouth, facial pain, visual problems, bruxism (teeth grinding) and tingling sensations in the fingers.

Q: How can the eyes or fingers have symptoms related to the jaws?

A: The complexity of the nervous system can send pain signals to parts of the body that are far from the source of a problem. The nerves of the head and face are particularly complex, so TMJ disorder has the potential to cause symptoms anywhere in the head and even in the neck, arms and down the spine.

Q: What is the treatment for TMJ disorder?

A: Symptoms can be treated to ease pain and discomfort, or to promote good sleep and good posture, which in turn can alleviate symptoms that can be exacerbated by poor posture or poor sleeping positions. There are also jaw exercises that can help. When poor dentition or a bad bite is causing or exacerbating TMJ symptoms, more permanent relief could be found by having dental work to correct bite problems or straighten teeth.