IT CAN BE DISCONCERTING to have your jaw pop and dislocate when you open your mouth. Even I, who understand the mechanisms of such dysfunction, can be caught off guard when my jaw pops out of its joint.
My worst case was when I simply opened my mouth to bite into a sandwich and my jaw wiggled funny. Upon closing my jaw, I felt a terrible pinch in my right jaw, likely from the jawbone pinching the disc on the right. I have had jaw pain before from jaw-lash, but this sensation was much sharper. I could not open my jaw more than a finger width apart, nor bite with any pressure. Talking was difficult, let alone chewing. Luckily, I had the means to treat it, which I share in this book. With the application of these remedies, I was 100 percent within three days.
You may be diagnosed with temporomandibular joint dysfunction, shortened to the much easier to read and remember TMD, when you have recurring pain in one or both of your jaw joints. The condition used to be called TMJ syndrome, but it was changed to TMD because TMJ is the term used for the jaw (temporomandibular joint), and too many people were shortening TMJ syndrome to just TMJ. So when someone said they suffered from TMJ, they were basically saying they suffered from “jaw.” The name was changed to temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) to clarify this distinction. But what causes this pain?
Look at Figure 2-1 and see how the mandible bone glides in the groove (mandibular fossa) of the temporal bone of the skull.
Figure 1 1: The mandible bone fits into a groove in the temporal bone.
I often use the analogy that this groove is like a riverbed. Over time, as the water flows through the riverbed, it deepens its own channel. But if the water deviates from its normal pathway, it forms an oxbow.
The same thing happens with your jaw. When your mandible (jawbone) doesn’t glide properly in its groove, it grinds against tissue outside of its normal pathway, in effect creating an “oxbow” that’s often painful. Misalignment of the muscles or an injury can cause the jaw to glide improperly in its groove. Figure 2-2 illustrates a normal pathway versus an oxbow pathway.
Figure 1 2: The blue line shows the normal path; the red line shows the movement that creates an oxbow.
A practitioner’s job is to help the mandible get back in its groove. The patient’s job is to keep moving the mandible in its groove.
I like this analogy because it helps patients understand that every time they hear a pop or feel the jaw deviate, they are deepening their “oxbow.”