TMJ is an acronym that began being used decades ago for “temporomandibular joint disorder”, in which the pair of joints on either side of the jaw are causing problems. More recently, some have argued that we should use the abbreviation TMJ for the temporomandibular joint, and the abbreviation TMJD or TMD for temporomandibular joint disorder, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll stick to calling it TMJ.
TMJ is a Developmental Disorder
The trouble with TMJ develops in childhood as a result of the habit of mouth breathing. The child breathes through his or her mouth because of asthma, allergies, or other causes of nasal irritation that make breathing through their nose too difficult. Because the jaw is held open, the jaw and teeth grow without the contradictory force that would normally help to direct their growth. For instance, the tongue should usually rest in contact with the roof of the mouth and should do the same during a swallow. When it does so, it puts pressure on the upper arch of your mouth, called the maxilla. This pressure counterbalances the forces of the muscles in your cheeks (the buccinators muscles). This is important when children are growing in their teeth because the teeth will naturally grow in the arch formed by the tongue and the maxilla. If the child is a mouth breather, the formation of the roof of the mouth, the teeth, the jaw, and the cranium itself all can be compromised in relationship to one another, leading to imbalanced relationships we group under the name TMJ.
A Joint at the Crossroads
The temporomandibular joint is located at the nexus of all the most important systems of our body. All of the air, food, and water that we consume through our mouth passes through this system of bones, tendons, nerves, and muscles. The temporomandibular joint system is like a radio antenna. Radio antennas have a lot of guide wires holding them in position. If one of those guide wires is pulling too much, or is slacking, there is undue stress on the other guide wires, and eventually the tower will begin to lean. When there is an imbalance in our temporomandibular joints, there can be dire consequences because other systems, such as the spinal column, need to accommodate the stress in the temporomandibular joint, its tendons, and its muscles. As a result, nerves, blood vessels, and other muscles in the area may suffer adverse stress.
TMJ symptoms range from a seemingly harmless click in the jaw to debilitating, migraine-like headaches, and are closely related to sleep apnea which, in turn, can cause stroke or congestive heart failure. TMJ treatment is critical to restore the balance to the bite.
“Where do I begin for TMJ Help?” If you think that you may have issues with TMJ, and you live in Corpus Christi, contact TMJ dentist, Dr. Don Lowrance and schedule a consultation today. Call (361) 851-8274 now!