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Headaches, jaw pain and teeth grinding: are these problems all related to the TMJ?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a common source of pain and dysfunction. The TMJ is the joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull and allows the mouth to open and close, to facilitate chewing and speaking. It is one of the smallest joints in the body, but can be one of the most debilitating because we must frequently use it throughout the day when eating or talking.

tmj

People who suffer from TMJ dysfunction often have a clicking or popping sensation when opening or closing their mouths. This clicking or popping, which happens when the disk in the joint is not in the correct position when the jaw is moving, can be so pronounced that others may even be able to hear it. Other common symptoms include headaches, neck pain, and ringing in the ears (often referred to as tinnitus). One of the major causes of TMJ dysfunction is bruxism, a repetitive clenching or grinding of the teeth. This typically happens at night while sleeping, so people may not be aware of it until their dentist notices early wearing on the teeth or a spouse or family member may hear the grinding sound. Another potential cause of TMJ dysfunction includes activities where the mouth is forceful closed in a misaligned position such as in excessive gum chewing and nail biting. Degenerative joint disease, structural mouth and tooth issues, and neck and upper back posture can also contribute to TMJ dysfunction. It is important to assess posture because when posture is poor, it disrupts the normal mechanics of the muscles responsible for chewing, putting additional strain on the joint.

night guard

It is always suggested to see your dentist to assess for any structural problems. Bruxism, for example, can be minimized with the use of a bite plate (also known as a night guard) to be worn at night, when the grinding is at its worse.

jaw strengthening

Physiotherapy is beneficial for people who suffer from TMJ issues. Physiotherapists, who have specific training in the TMJ, will properly assess not only the jaw, but also the neck. Potential course of treatment includes muscle retraining, manual therapy techniques for the joint and surrounding muscles, and pain relief modalities, such as TENS, Laser or acupuncture.

Have you ever heard anyone grinding their teeth at night?

Jason Bellefleur
Jason Bellefleur is a multi-award-winning physiotherapist. Most recently, he was recognized as a 2016 Ottawa Forty Under 40 recipient and received numerous awards from the Orléans Chamber of Commerce (the 2011 Young Business Person of the Year, the 2012 Healthcare Professional of the Year and the 2014 Business Person of the Year awards). Jason is proud to be an Orléans resident and to raise his family in a bilingual community. He enthusiastically promotes local business within the Orléans area and frequently supports and participates in local events. Jason was recognized for his community involvement by receiving the Orleans 150 Community Builder award in 2017 by Ottawa-Orléans MPP Marie-France Lalonde. Jason firmly believes in high-quality one-on-one physiotherapy interventions. His treatment approach emphasizes hands-on intervention, continued client education, and active involvement by the individual to help them reach their full potential. By opening a clinic that offers 'Higher Standards of Care,' Jason wants his patients to feel confident that they receive the highest level of patient care available. As a result, he is also preventing injury and helping to improve their health and well-being.

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