Temporomandibular joint (TMJ), Jaw Problems


The jaw joints, called temporomandibular joints (TMJ), connect the lower jaw to the skull on the right and left sides of the head. Those are among the most complex joints in the body and they are composed by three main parts:

  • The top part of the lower jaw (called condyle)
  • The cheekbone
  • A disc that functions as a cushion between the two bones

The TMJs work as a sliding hinge, allowing the lower jaw to move up, down and sideways, which makes it possible for us to eat, chew, bite, speak, swallow, yawn, etc.

Many people develop disorders in the TMJ and, although the exact cause can be difficult to identify, in the majority of cases there a bad bite component.


Symptoms of TMJ disorder

TMJ disorders can present several symptoms, including:

– Painful muscles in the face, head, neck and shoulders
– Pain in the joint itself
– Earache, hearing problems, dizziness, tinnitus
– Difficulty chewing or opening the mouth wide
– Locking, clicking or popping sound in the joint

Arthritis, genetic factors, stress, trauma and movement of the disc in the joint can contribute to the development of jaw disorders. However, bite problems, including worn out teeth, tooth grinding and clenching, play an even more important role in the development of this condition.



While there are many treatment options to relief the symptoms of joint dysfunction, such as muscle relaxation, stress reduction, use of heat and surgery, none of them addresses the cause of the problem.

In fact, it can be difficult to identify what is causing the jaw problem, but bite problems often make it worse, reason why it needs to be taken into account in the overall treatment plan.

If you think about your car, it is easy to understand that the tyres need to be balanced and aligned in both sides, otherwise they can wear out in some areas, and if this is not corrected, it causes damage to other parts of the car.

The same principle applies to the jaw joints. When our jaws bite together, around 260 pounds of force are generated in the back teeth. Bite problems (open bite, under bite, cross bite), tilted, missing, crooked, misaligned and worn out teeth can affect the balance between right and left sides, thus leading to dysfunction in one or in both joints.

Thus, bite issues lead to uneven distribution of forces, causing tension in the chewing muscles. The stress is passed on to the joint and its structures, also affecting the head and the neck. The tension affects the sutures that link the different bones in the skull and the membranes that cover the brain and the spine, causing pain in different parts of the head, neck and spine.

Altogether, this results in pain in the joint or in other areas and in several other problems.



Little attention is usually given to bite problems, however, they have the potential to affect not only the joint, head and neck, but also distant sites such as back, hips and legs.

When teeth have correct positions and alignment, they function better, keeping joints and muscles balanced. Medical orthodontics is a new field in dentistry, which aims at offering drug-free relief for medical conditions such as TMJ dysfunction, through the correction of the bite.



Orthodontic treatment offers a non-invasive solution to address the cause of many chronic problems, such as jaw problems. While braces were the traditional approach, clear aligner therapy has become the most popular choice.

This is a comfortable solution for adults, who can get their teeth and jaws gently corrected with an almost invisible plastic tray, replaced every 2-3 weeks to guide the teeth into better positions.

The fact that these devices are removable and clear makes treatment more convenient. The digital workflow makes it easier and quicker to get a balanced bite and a beautiful smile.

Talk to your orthodontist today, make a plan to correct your bite to improve jaw problems and the rest of the body.