Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is a condition that affects the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and the surrounding facial muscles, causing pain, problems with opening the mouth and headaches, among other symptoms. While dentists often prescribe TMD treatments to help reduce the effects of TMD, other treatments target the causes, like muscle tension and bite misalignment. When a patient’s TMD is due to incorrectly positioned bones and muscles in the neck, a chiropractor may be able to help ease this condition.
What Causes TMD?
TMD is a general term that covers temporomandibular joint dysfunction, facial pain around the jaw joint and muscle problems that affect the joint’s movement. The condition has a range of causes, according to the Mayo Clinic, including jaw injury, poor teeth alignment and arthritis, as well as tension or stress — and sometimes the cause isn’t known. Consequently, when dentists or dental specialists treat TMD, they may prescribe several approaches.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research notes that treatments for TMD may include taking pain and anti-inflammatory medications, eating soft foods, reducing stress, wearing dental splints and receiving physical therapy. Manipulation of the neck bones and muscles is the physical therapy that a TMJ chiropractor provides. Though patients anecdotally report that chiropractic manipulations improve their TMD symptoms, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, no rigorous studies have assessed the effectiveness of chiropractic treatment for TMD.
Chiropractors realign bones and muscles to improve function and reduce pain in their patients, and they must pass an exam to receive a license to practice. A chiropractor can realign the bones of the neck to improve problems with the jaw joint.
As TMJ Hope explains, an Atlas Orthogonist chiropractor gently adjusts the highest bones in the neck with a percussion instrument to reduce nerve interference that could be causing TMD. Other chiropractors who can treat TMD are those trained in National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association techniques. These chiropractors also focus their treatment on repositioning the bones that connect the neck to the head.
Patients may need to visit a TMJ chiropractor several times or even regularly in order to manage their TMD symptoms. Those who find it painful to open their mouths wide to brush their teeth may benefit from a toothbrush like the Colgate 360° Total Advanced Floss-Tip Bristles toothbrush, whose raised tip helps clean hard-to-reach areas of the mouth.
Just as a dentist can diagnose TMD and assess possible causes, he or she can also advise whether a TMJ chiropractor is the ideal option for reducing symptoms, or if chiropractic treatment might work best alongside other options.