10 Signs of TMJ Dysfunction

Last week we talked about TMJ dysfunction and how it can relate to other areas of your body and in fact how often seemingly unrelated problems may be related to the TMJ not functioning as it should. I thought that we might take a few minutes and give you my top 10 signs of TMJ Dysfunction.

1. Headaches

Headaches are one of the most common symptoms of TMJ dysfunction. Although, if it is of boring, searing, unrelenting pain, please go to the ER or hospital to make sure that it isn't something more serious. That being said I had a patient a few weeks ago come in with a migraine type of a headache for the previous 32 days. She had been to the ER several times and at least two different neurologists, had MRI, and CT scans all giving her "clean" bills of health. On her first visit, I treated her and balanced her TMJ via AK and manual muscle testing and the next day was her first day without a headache in over a month. That being said there are multiple types of problems, and honestly, most causes are multifactorial. So, to say all migraines are TMJ related is an overstatement but I would be willing to bet that the TMJ has a role to play in their headaches.

2. Jaw Pain

Jaw pain probably falls into the duh category for TMJ dysfunction, but you should be cautious of making the assumption that all jaw pain is related to the TMJ. Jaw pain can also be a sign of heart attack or heart disease. So, if you do have jaw pain and you have other potential risk factors for heart disease make sure you get that checked. Once cleared it is more likely your TMJ dysfunction causing you problems.

3. Ear Pain

Ear pain is one of those sneaky phrases that patients will sometimes say that send off flares in my head to check their TMJ for dysfunction. Again, we have to rule out an infection or other possible complication. Due to the muscular and ligamentous attachments of the TMJ anatomy; if there is an imbalance of that TMJ anatomy, it may easily cause pain in the ear.

4. Ringing in the Ear

Ring in the ears of tinnitus is a horrible problem if you have ever suffered from it. There are many causes for tinnitus, for instance, way too many years in nightclubs or going to a lot of loud concerts during your 20's. TMJ dysfunction must be treated and balanced to help these patients. On a side note since, we are talking about tinnitus. One of the major things you can do besides balancing a TMJ problem; is to address the Iliocecal Valve (the junction between the large and small intestines).

5. Grinding of Teeth

Teeth Grinding or Bruxism can be triggered by stress, dietary indiscretions or imbalances in the TMJ. One of the main causes could be that the teeth aren't biting together properly. Thus, not properly turning off the jaw-closing muscles through the deformation of the periodontal ligament, which can lead to cracking of the teeth or at least wearing them down prematurely.

6. Pain in the Spine

According to Penfield and Rasmussen, about 35% of sensory input to the central nervous system is related to the TMJ. One of the things that I find using Applied Kinesiology is that sometimes pain in the upper neck and the pelvis, especially sciatic like pains are related to TMJ dysfunction.

7. Popping in the Jaw

An opening click is also one of those duh moments when assessing the TMJ for dysfunction. It is one of the best signs that something is out of balance. Specifically the upper fibers of the external pterygoid muscle that attaches to the disc that causes the click in the jaw. That muscle attaches to the front part of the disc between your jaw and your skull. If it is hypertonic then, it pulls the disc forward. When the disc is stuck forward, it forces your jaw to "pop" over it as the jaw opens.

8. Endocrine imbalance

The Pituitary, which is the conductor for your endocrine system, sits in the sphenoid bone. This bone is what several of your TMJ muscles attach to if these muscles are out of balance then it may quickly affect the proper biomechanics of the sphenoid. Thus, potentially affecting the rest of your endocrine organs.

9. A chronic sore throat

The key word here is persistent. If you have an active infection in your throat then, of course, you will have a sore throat. But if you have a sore throat or a "tickle" in your throat that just won't go away. It could be your hyoid muscles (I consider part of the TMJ when assessing it) that are out of balance causing soreness or difficulty in swallowing.

10. Decreased opening of the Jaw

Finishing off the list is reduced opening of the jaw.  You should be able to get the middle three knuckles of your first three fingers between your upper and lower central incisors.  If you can't your jaw doesn't open far enough.  Indicating that you have tight jaw-closing muscles.   I have attached a PDF of one of the questionnaires I use in practice for patients that have some pushback about their TMJ being dysfunctional.

Email me at [email protected], and I will help you find a qualified AK doc in your area.    

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