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  • Writer's pictureDr. Hanna Shays

Causes of Jaw Pain (TMJD)

Caption explaining factors contributing to jaw pain

Here at Stability In Wellness, LLC, we take a special interest in conditions affecting the head, neck and arm--that includes the jaw! Below, we have listed a number of risk factors that can contribute to pain in the jaw. However, you may still have these risk factors and jaw dysfunction WITHOUT pain.

The risk factors and potential causes of jaw pain, or TMJD, include:

1. Stress, which leads to clenching & grinding the teeth either at night or during the day time. This puts unnecessary pressure and strain on the jaw.

2. Poor posture, usually observed as rounded upper back, slouched shoulders and a forward head. This affects how we move our head, neck & jaw.

3. Weakness of the jaw muscles, making it difficult for them to help keep the joint in proper alignment.

4. Excess tension in the muscles surrounding the jaw joint, causing pain and headaches. Excess tension may also create too much force on the joint in certain directions when chewing.

5. Mouth breathing can affect tongue posture and lead to an under-active diaphragm. This also affects overall posture.

So, what can we do for our jaw patients? When addressing the causes of jaw pain or TMJD, we assess breathing, posture, jaw tension and motor control. We will perform dry needling, prescribe exercises to optimize neuromuscular control of the joint, improve diaphragmatic activation, prescribe any corrective exercises for posture, and connect our patients with a dentist that creates a custom bite guard for nighttime.

Additionally, it is important to consider one very over-looked problem that can also be a root cause of jaw pain and dysfunction: a tongue tie. Usually, these are caught at a young age due to difficulty with breast feeding and speech impediments. However, some tongue ties are not obvious and can be found in adults who suddenly find themselves struggling with TMJD. When the tongue is anchored to the floor of the mouth, it loses its natural ability to reach further areas of the mouth (like molars). In attempting to reach these areas, someone with a tongue tie will move their jaw excessively to compensate to increase the reach of the tongue. Over time, this can cause problems at the jaw joint. If a tongue tie is the case, then consulting with a myofunctional therapist is highly recommended. Myofunctional therapists are Speech Language Pathologists that are trained in addressing this specific issue.

If you are reading this and find that you have questions, we are always happy to assist in any way possible. Please connect with us via phone, email or Instagram.

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