Jaw Joints and Nerves
TMJ disorder describes a dysfunction with your jaw’s joints, called the temporomandibular joints. When your bite is not aligned properly, either from injury, malocclusion, constant teeth-grinding, or a congenital jaw defect, the imbalance can place a strain on the joints and muscles responsible for your jaw’s movement.
The stress can damage your jaw’s components and disturb your trigeminal nerves, which innervate the majority of your head, face, and neck. Pain in the jaw’s branch of the nerve can be transferred to other areas along the nerve’s path, resulting in a wide variety of seemingly-unrelated symptoms.
Contributing Causes of TMJ Disorder
When healthy, your TMJs allow your jaw to move smoothly within its gliding joints, minimizing impact and allowing for an even distribution of pressure throughout the joint (instead of focusing the pressure on a single point, like other joints). Malocclusion, or crooked teeth, is a common bite disorder that can throw your mouth off-balance and over-exert your jaw. Congenital jaw defects can cause your jawbone to grown unevenly, and accidental trauma can directly damage your jaw’s bone, joints, and muscles.
In the grips of TMJ discomfort, its underlying cause may seem less important than finding immediate relief; however, given the numerous possibilities, treating TMJ disorder requires first determining the reason for its presence.