The jaw joint, or temporomandibular joint
(TMJ) gets its name from the two bones comprising the joint. The
temporal bone of the skull and the mandible (jaw bone) fit together
to form a hinge-like jaw joint.
Dentist have long known that temporomandibular
joint dysfunction can cause symptoms far removed from the joint
itself. Headaches, back pain, and pain across the shoulders are
often relieved after temporomandibular joint dysfunction is corrected.
More recent evidence shows that the TMJ can cause functional problems
throughout the body.
Let's look at this joint, how it functions,
what causes problems, and how dysfunction can cause problems throughout
The temporomandibular joint is classified
as a hinge-type joint, but it has a much more complex action than
that. When simply opening and closing the mouth, the temporomandibular
joint may appear to act like a hinge; however, in the chewing action
there is a complex movement of the joint that provides for the grinding
action of the teeth. It is impossible for only one side of the jaw
to move at a time. During the grinding action, one temporomandibular
joint slides forward while the other slides back. You can observe
this by placing your fingers on your jaw joints and moving your
jaw to the side, as if chewing. When you place your fingers on your
jaw joint, they should be just in front of the opening of your ears.
Location of jaw joint
While your fingers are in
this position, you can observe for clicking of the jaw. There should
be no clicking or popping as the temporomandibular joint moves through
its complete range of motion. Sometimes this noise is audible to
people close to you; other times it can only be felt as a lack of
smooth movement and heard by oneself. In any event, popping and
clicking of the temporomandibular joint indicate that it is not
To evaluate the TMJ, move the jaw back and forth from
side to side while feeling the joint for smooth motion. Popping,
grinding, or clicking is indication of a joint not functioning properly.
Examination includes determining the balance
of temporomandibular joint activity and the muscles that move the
jaw through its range of motion. When an imbalance of TMJ function
is found, it can often be corrected by balancing the jaw's muscular
activity with applied kinesiology techniques. It is sometimes necessary
to have the bite (occlusion) balanced by a dentist to maintain muscle
and temporomandibular joint balance.
Balance of the hyoid bone in the neck is
closely associated with temporomandibular joint activity. The hyoid
bone has no direct contact with other bones; it is held in the neck
by muscles that support it like a sling. Again, muscular balance
of the hyoid is very important for normal body harmony.
The balance of the hyoid and
its muscular structures is monitored by nerve receptors within the
muscles and tendons of the hyoid. These receptors are called propriceptors,
and they send information to other muscles and into the network
of the nervous system. The hyoid and its associated structures can
be examined for balance in a manner similar to the muscles of the
temporomandibular joint. Applied kinesiology techniques are also
capable of balancing these structures when necessary.
When the temporomandibular joint or the
hyoid and its associated structures are functioning abnormally,
neurologic confusion can result. This particular area of the body
receives a very high percentage of nerve communication from the
brain. Confusion within this system can overflow into other systems
of the body, causing health problems literally throughout the body
by way of improper nerve function.
As modern science learns more about the
controlling mechanisms within the body, we are able to treat more
of the health problems to which man is subjected. Interestingly,
we find that more and more symptoms are treated far from the site
of the symptom itself. It is not uncommon to have a sacroiliac pain
treated at the site of the jaw joint; a few years ago this would
not have been considered.