When most people think of chiropractic care they think of the spine. The spinal cord is full of nerves that connect to every part of the human body, including the face and jaw. The jaw is a joint of the mouth, and can slip out of place just as any other joint can. Chiropractors are licensed professionals that manipulate not only the spine, but all of the joints in the human body to reduce pain. The jaw is no exception to this, and if left untreated after an accident or a lifetime of bad habits, problems can form.
One of the main conditions that affects the jaw joint is temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder, or more commonly known as TMJ. TMJ is a disorder than can be brought on by trauma to the jaw or by a bad experience with orthodontics. The temporomandibular joint connects the jaw to the sides of the head. When aligned correctly the jaw moves up and down and slides forward and backward freely, allowing painless eating and speaking. However, when the TMJ is not aligned correctly the symptoms include radiating pain in the face, jaw, or neck, muscle stiffness of the jaw, a change in the alignment of teeth, and/or painful clicking or popping accompanied with opening and closing the mouth.
When a chiropractor is consulted, generally the doctor will look at the patient’s overall lifestyle and suggest small changes to induce relief of the TMJ symptoms. Additionally a chiropractor can manually manipulate the spine, neck, and jaw to release pressure created by the jaw being out of alignment. In addition to specific stretches assigned by the chiropractor, many people notice relief of their TMJ symptoms after seeing a chiropractor for treatment.
Another common jaw joint problem is grinding of the teeth, known as Bruxism. Some people do this in their sleep without even realizing it, while other people grind during stressful situations. It can be a common side effect of trauma to the head, back, or neck, acting as a subconscious coping mechanism. Because grinding is commonly done during sleeping hours, many people don’t notice symptoms until the grinding has been in effect for some time. Continued grinding can lead to issues with the teeth including: tooth sensitivity, flattened teeth, or even chipped/fractured teeth! Some other symptoms include dull head and neck aches upon waking and face or jaw pain.
The interesting thing about Bruxism is that the problem is not usually in the jaw. The nerves contained in the spinal cord reach out to the face and jaw and can radiate pain there instead of the spine, making it seem like the problem is in the face. A chiropractor can manipulate the spine, set the joints and nerves straight, and reduce the need to grind as a coping mechanism for pain after a trauma. Visiting a chiropractor is a smart choice. Chiropractors take in the whole picture when treating patients and look for the root cause of pain so that their patients can see actual results and reduce pain for good.