TMJ DISORDERS – What happens if I do nothing?
The TM Joint is subject to degeneration. We have been created to adapt to these degenerative processes. When the degenerative process exceeds the body’s ability to adapt, there is pain or loss of function. The doctor’s job is to identify the origin of the symptoms and restore lost function. With chronic pain the origin of the symptoms and where the symptoms present are rarely the same. A structural problem in the foot, the hip or the neck can cause us to clench and grind and be the source of the jaw and facial pain.
Over activity of the clenching muscles can cause significant stresses on the temporomandibular joints, the muscles of mastication, the facial muscles and the muscles of the neck. Therefore the treatment sequence needs to be designed around identifying what is driving those muscles. During the day, a chronic dysfunction of the TMJ, an acute injury anywhere in the body or stress can be the origin of the clenching and grinding. At night, it is usually a Sleep Related Breathing Disorder (OSA) that initiates clenching and grinding in an effort to open the airway to breathe better. Treatment therefore is designed around identifying and treating the origin of the symptoms and by managing the destructive forces of clenching and grinding at night.
This involves understanding what is causing the “toughest joint in the body to break down”. It involves understanding the dynamics of daytime function and night time parafunction (abnormal function – clenching and grinding). The TM Joint is the most used joint in the body and ignoring this dysfunction will result in increased pain, poor sleep and loss of normal function of the jaws – often resulting in depression and a feeling of hopelessness.