The jaw joints, otherwise known as the temporomandibular joints (TMJs) are the most complex joints in the human body. They are acted on by the bodies strongest and most dense muscles and whilst chewing are subject to enormous forces in a multitude of different directions. It is perhaps a little surprizing then that most of the problems associated with these joints have nothing to do with eating.
Most frequently these problems emerge as a result of clenching or grinding the teeth. This can result from stress, head injuries, sleep apnoea, certain prescription medications (most notably a sub type of antidepressant medication, known a SSRIs – like Prozac, Zoloft, cyprimil, Lexapro etc, but also appetite suppressants like duromine, and stimulants like dexaphetamine) and also illicit drugs like ice, speed and ecstasy.
The pain associated with disorders of the TMJ can be intense, unrelenting and like most pain in the head and neck region, can refer to other parts of the head and face, making diagnosis at times quite tricky. Headaches are often associated with either the joints themselves or the muscles that act on them. In addition, in the immediate vicinity of the joints in the human skull, is the machinery for balance (middle ear) and hearing (outer ear), so it is not uncommon to have dizziness or tinnitus (ringing in the ear) associated with jaw dysfunction.
As a general rule, treatments for jaw joint problems can be pretty hit and miss. A long-time staple of dental treatment for jaw joint problems is a device known as an occlusal splint, which is effectively a wedge of plastic that keeps the jaws separated at night (usually). It is ultra-effective at protecting the teeth from damage, but nowhere near as predictable in relieving the jaw pain.
The unpredictability of the occlusal splint in treating the TMJ comes down to a number of factors. The anatomy of the individual is one. Given the enormous variety in shape of the human jaw, it’s not all that surprising that a one design fits all approach won’t necessarily work.
One feature common to almost all of the causes of TMJ disorders, is the excess tension in the chewing muscles. Tension in these muscles pushes the lower jaw into the joint, effectively squashing the disk and cartilage, and causing inflammation and pain.
Strategic use of our products can relieve the tension in these muscles, take pressure off the joints and allow them heal, no matter what the cause.