When you have jaw joint issues, one of our dentists at The Myofunctional Centre may be able to assist you in finding the long term resolution. Often, these issues can be quite complicated, but our approach is never to just treat the symptoms, but manage the root causes instead.
Jaw joints can become dysfunctional, like clicking, popping, locked jaw, usually when the discs that protect these joints are dislocated and/or damaged. Frequently, the patient is also grinding and/or clenching their teeth. Many patients suffering from jaw joint dysfunctions are given an oral splint, or guard, to prevent wearing down of their teeth from worsening, acting more like “band-aids”.
At The Myofunctional Centre, we prefer to thoroughly evaluate and investigate the reasons behind the jaw joint dysfunctions in the first place. Sometimes, the dysfunction can be a result of compensatory mechanism of issues occurring at other parts of the body. Our job is to work out if the origin of the problems is from the jaw joints themselves, or from somewhere else, and plan the management to fit.
Yes, we do also custom make oral splints, or guards, if the patient needs one, but not as “band aids”. Instead, each device is custom made to the individual to treat the root causes of the dysfunctions accordingly.
There are also orofacial myofunctional factors to consider. Some patients may be suffering from jaw joint dysfunctions because of tongue thrusting, mouth breathing, tongue tie, atypical swallowing habits, and others. Hence, orofacial myofunctional therapy may also be indicated as part of the treatment solutions.
Besides one of our dentists and orofacial myofunctional therapists, the patient may need to be assessed and managed by the bodyworker (osteopath, chiropractor, or physiotherapist), as required.
If not from the jaw joints themselves, what are other possible causes of jaw joint dysfunctions?
When a patient has a jaw joint dysfunction, usually there are other parts of the body that also suffer from related issues. The problem can be descending (originating from the jaw joints and radiating downward to affect the body posture), or ascending (originating from body postural issues and radiating upward to the jaw joints). Sometimes, motor reflex testing is indicated as part of the diagnostic process to work out if it is a descending or an ascending problem. If it is an ascending problem, it may originate from as far down as the feet.
Is surgery an option to treat jaw joint dysfunctions?
There are different types of surgical options that may be recommended by various health practitioners to treat jaw joint dysfunctions. Our preference is to avoid surgery as much as possible, and to only consider it seriously as a last resort. Nevertheless, it is always important to understand all the available options to be able to make an informed treatment decision appropriately.
How can orofacial dysfunctions relate to jaw joint issues?
When the muscles of the mouth and face are not functioning in the ways that they are supposed to be, the lower jaw usually carries a significant burden of undesirable forces. For example, with a forward tongue thrust swallow, the tongue protrudes out in between the upper and lower front teeth (instead of ideally up against the palate) then goes back in, dragging the lower jaw backward with it to complete the swallow. Because the jaw joints are part of the lower jaw bone, the joints physically become compressed backward and upward against the cranial bones above them, squeezing the jaw joint discs out of their optimal positions. As humans, on average, we swallow 2000 times daily. This means 2000 times that the discs of the jaw joints go out of positions. Therefore, correcting the functions of the muscles of the mouth and face needs to always be a consideration in the management of jaw joint dysfunctions.