Your jaw, a U-shaped bone attached by two joints to your skull, is one of the most complex set of joints in your body. Pain in the jaw can be a result of dysfunction of the joints, the surrounding muscles, arthritis or a combination. It is estimated that 10 million Americans suffer from some extent of TMJ disorder, but fewer than 1% seek treatment.
One of the major problems with diagnosing head and neck pain is the phenomenon known as “referred pain”, which is pain that can be felt in one location even though the disease or malfunction is in a different location. For example, TMJ pain can sometimes present as inner ear pain. As strange as it sounds, problems involving the health and function of the jaw can be responsible for a wide variety of symptoms including:
What causes TMJ? TMJ can be caused by many factors and is often an accumulation of problems. Some factors:
What do I do now? Proper diagnosis of the causes of the problem is critical to successful treatment. This diagnosis can be made only after a specific history is taken, and an examination of the jaws, teeth, neck, posture and functional movements is completed. In many instances plaster casts of the teeth and specific TMJ x-rays are required.
Due to the highly complex nature of head and neck pain, several systems and structures may simultaneously be involved. Except in instances of trauma, TMJ dysfunction has taken years to materialize. Treatment is not always as rapid as both the patient and the doctor would like. Several phases and techniques of therapy may be employed. Most commonly used methods include physical therapy of the jaw joints and muscles, orthopedic jaw repositioning devices or splints, altering the bite with orthodontics or replacing missing teeth, or introducing exercises or nutritional support. Dr. Richard A. Weiler has trained extensively and is experienced in treating TMJ disorder, and has helped innumerable patients with head and neck pain.