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Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction

If you are experiencing pain in the jaw, Lincoln Dental, your family dentist located near templestowe can help you identify the problem.

What is the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)

The Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint where the mandible (lower jaw) joins the temporal bone (bone at the side of the head). This joint is in front of the ear on each side of the head. This joint moves every time you talk, chew or swallow, making it one of the most frequently used joints in the body.

You can locate this joint by placing your finger immediately in front of your ear. Press your finger firmly on the triangular portion in front of your ear while you open your jaw all the way and shut it. The motion you feel is that of the TMJ. These movements can cause significant discomfort for patients experiencing TMJ problems.

How does the TMJ work?

When you eat or bite, the force is on not only the object you are biting but also on the temporomandibular joint. The joint is a gliding ball and socket joint (such as in the hip) to help prevent too much wear and tear. This allows the forces of chewing to be distributed over a wider surface in the joint space and in turn allow healing to occur rapidly between chewing times.

Causes of TMJ dysfunction

Gritting and grinding teeth, or often chewing gum increases the wear on the cartilage lining of the temporomandibular joint. This means the joint has less opportunity to recover in between meals.

Chewing habitually on one side of the mouth can cause wear and tear on one joint more than the other. This means a focus of wear on the cartilage lining of the joint space. With this wear, pain may occur. Other causes of TMJ dysfunction include arthritis and injury to the joint. These can all lead to what is known as a TMJ Dysfunction (dysfunction meaning impaired and/or painful function).

TMJ Dysfunction symptoms

There are a variety of symptoms associated with TMJ dysfunction:

  • pain (sharp or dull) when chewing, talking, yawning or swallowing
  • earache or headache
  • spasm of muscles attached to the skull, face and jaws
  • pain in the temple, cheeks, lower jaw and teeth
  • popping, clicking or grating sounds of the joint upon opening and closing

How to improve TMJ Dysfunction and improve jaw function

If detected early the TMJ Dysfunction may respond to the following

  • massage facial muscles around and in front of jaw
  • chew evenly left and right
  • avoid foods that are hard to chew
  • applying a heat pad to the tender area twice a day (make sure heat at a safe level for the face)
  • exercises to relax the face and jaw (recommended by dentist or specialist)
  • wear a splint/night guard custom made by your dentist to help with any grinding and clenching particularly overnight
  • your doctor may also prescribe some anti-inflammatory medication to help with the pain experienced with a TMJ Dysfunction


These exercises are best done 2 times a day. Set aside 5 minutes each time, sitting up straight. This should be done only twice a day for the first week, then as often as you can thereafter.

  • Close your mouth with your teeth in a position where they are touching but not clenching.
  • Place the tip of your tongue on your palate just behind the upper front teeth
  • Now whilst your tongue is maintaining contact with the palate and teeth, open your mouth until the tongue is about to be pulled away. Keep your mouth in this position for 5 seconds and relax.
  • Check in the mirror that your jaw moves vertically up and down and not deviate to one side.
  • If performed correctly, you should hear no clicking or noises from the joints.
  • Repeat this process slowly for 5 minutes.

This exercise will strengthen your ligaments and muscles around the jaw if done correctly.

Our professional clinicians at Lincoln Dental, located near Donvale, Templestowe, Blackburn, Vermont and Forest Hill will help you identify the cause of your jaw pain, teach you exercises to alleviate the pain and construct nightguards to prevent the worsening of your TMJ dysfunction.


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