The jaw is the one of the most solicited joints of the organism, with 10,000 movements per 24 hours. It contributes to two essential functions: chewing and mouth opening.
Every person has two jaw joints, located on either side of the face, just in front of the ears. We call this joint the temporomandibular joint because it articulates between the temporal bone, which is the bone of your skull in front of the temple, and the mandible, which is the jaw.
Between these bone structures there is a meniscus, similar to the meniscus inside your knee, which moves backwards and forwards when you open your mouth. A perturbation of the motion of the meniscus can contribute to jaw disorders.
The jaw can cause disorders like pain, clicking within the joint, or difficulties to open the mouth. It is often accompanied with other signs like headache, neck pain, tinnitus, facial pain. This is because this joint is also connected by anatomical links to the skull and spine. These dysfunctions can make chewing painful or inefficient, which can in turn impact feeding.
The origin of temporomandibular disorders is likely multifactorial and some potential contributors are dental problems, abnormal occlusion, direct trauma on the jaw, face or neck, bruxism, anxiety, stress, arthritis.
The goal of osteopathic treatment is to reduce pain and improve mandibular range of motion but also to find the primary cause of the problem. This cause can originate from the jaw itself or elsewhere such as a dental problem, spine dysfunction, imbalanced pelvis, or a postural problem.
After a medical history and assessment, the Osteopath uses manual techniques directly on ligaments and muscles of the joint to release tension. It’s also important for the Osteopath to consider the functional interrelation among the head, the neck, the jaw joint, and the body as a whole in the management of temporomandibular disorders. For this purpose, the Osteopath will also ensure that there is no joint mobility restriction in elsewhere in your body, which can change the body’s posture and have repercussions on the jaw joints. In some cases, the management of jaw disorders requires close cooperation between the Osteopath and a Dentist specialized in occlusion.