That Miraculous Jaw! (TMJ)

August 30, 2012

Arthritis, Dental, Health, Pain, Stress

Most people will feel nothing. However, if you feel any clicking or feel your jawbone pushing against your fingers, this may be a TMD.

by Dr. T. Aristotle Economou — 

The correct medical term for the acronym TMJ is the temporomandibular joint. This miraculous joint connects your lower jaw (mandible) to your skull, which is separated by a small, fibrous disc called a meniscus. The meniscus absorbs the vibration from movement and impact of your jaw. Repetitive teeth grinding (bruxism) can cause micro-tears in this disc, which result in painful symptoms.

When the TMJ becomes painful, or other problems arise as a result of dysfunction, then it is called TMJ syndrome or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).

The main muscles that control your TMJ are the muscles responsible for chewing. These are the temporalis, masseter, lateral pterygoid, medial pterygoid and buccinators muscles. Many health practitioners are unaware that, when treating the TMJ, other muscles in the neck, shoulder and back also affect this joint.

These muscles include the scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, trapezius, levator scapulae, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, rhomboids and latissimus dorsi. In other words, any dysfunction in or around muscles of the spine can result in TMD.

Arthritis is one cause of TMD. Another can be stress, which results in grinding teeth and clenching the jaw. This typically occurs while sleeping. Some people, however, believe the root cause of clenching and grinding is a malposition of the jaw. The teeth don’t quite fit together properly and, over time, the muscles compensate for this imbalanced fit, causing pain and various symptoms of TMD.

To determine if the teeth are properly aligned, I will refer a patient to a dentist for an evaluation of their bite. The dentist and a chiropractor will then work together to help determine and treat the cause of the TMD.

How do you know if you are suffering from TMD? If over a period of time you experience any of the symptoms listed below, you could be suffering from TMD. Another way to know is to perform the following simple test at home:

  1. Place your hands over your temples and clench your jaw. As you do this, you will feel your muscles tighten.
  2. Now relax your jaw, keeping your fingers on the muscles.
  3. Massage the area with firm pressure.

If you feel areas of tenderness, it means your muscles are under stress and your TMJ could be the cause.

Another test you can do would be the following:

  1. Lightly place the ends of your little fingers in your ears.
  2. Open and close your jaw as far as you can. Do this a few times.

Most people will feel nothing. However, if you feel any clicking or feel your jawbone pushing against your fingers, this may be a TMD.

Despite years of traditional therapy and numerous physical examinations, these painful symptoms can persist and be elusive. At times, patients are simply unaware they have TMD and are told, “Nothing is wrong,” or “We are sorry, but you’ll just have to live with it.”

Surgery may not be necessary. Fortunately, there are noninvasive, conservative treatment advancements for this type of problem, utilizing 21st century soft-laser technology, adjusting instruments and high-tech diagnostic procedures such as electro meridian imaging (EMI). Soft laser treatments and adjusting procedures are painless and considered comfortable.

How permanent are the results with TMD treatment using conservative methods? If there has not been any tissue damage,  the beneficial results for acute problems are frequently lasting. For chronic TMD, once the condition is under control, booster treatments may be necessary a few times a year depending on your personal health habits, the severity of the original condition and your practitioner’s approach to treat the problem.

Frequently, I receive referrals from dentists to assist in TMJ treatment and perform an EMI evaluation to uncover energetic imbalances that may be affecting the patient’s biomagnetic pathways (meridians) coursing through their temporomandibular joint. These imbalanced meridians that may be a contributing cause of TMD. So be sure to ask your doctor to perform an EMI examination.

Common symptoms of TMJ and TMD

  • headaches and migraines
  • clenching teeth
  • grinding of teeth
  • tooth pain and sensitive teeth
  • jaw pain
  • limited opening of mouth
  • jaw deviates to one side when opening
  • clicking or popping sound
  • earaches
  • dizziness
  • neck/shoulder pain
  • ear pain without infection
  • sinus-type headache
  • eye pain
  • forehead pain


Dr. T. Aristotle Economou, an acupuncturist and doctor of chiropractic, has teamed up with Scottsdale dentist, Dr. Rani Chatterjee at the Center for Gentle Dentistry, A Holistic Approach. He is in private practice in Scottsdale, Ariz., 800-930-6851 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 5, October/November 2008.

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