The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is the medical name given to the jaw joint. It is made up of the lower jaw (condyle) which articulates against a disc in a cup shaped depression of the skull (fossa) by the ear. If the lower jaw is displaced it can cause the disc to come away from it's correct position and dislocate, causing a clicking or grating noise when the mouth opens.
When the TMJ dislocates it can cause the symptoms of headaches, migraines, neck ache, tinnitus, fatigue and pain to name but a few. Patients will often grind their teeth at night, have difficulty opening wide, click or grate in the TMJ when opening and have some pain in the joint area itself in front of the ear.
The diagnosis is crucial in understanding and treating the problem and will involve muscle testing, ranges of motion, X-rays and possible Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
Treatment can involve wearing splints and braces on the teeth to realign the jaw into it's correct position. In the majority of cases this eliminates all of the symptoms especially the headaches and migraines.
There is some exciting new research from Dr. Anthony Sims and Dr Brendan Stack in the US showing a possible correlation and link between TMD and "Tourettes Syndrome".
There is already an established connection between the TMJ and "Muscle Movement Disorder" - MMD (ie tics and repetitive abnormal muscle movements). The connection is thought to come from compression of the Auriculotemporal Nerve, when the condyle is set too far up and back in the fossa. This nerve pathway goes into the Cerebrum via the Reticulate Ganglion (like a junction box), where it seems there are aberrant crossovers with some of the other cranial nerves including the Optic (eye) and Glossopharyngeal (throat) nerve.
This could also explain the syndrome of Blepharospasm (chronic, repetitive and frequent blinking) and there is a connection with the voice (in Tourettes - barking, vocal uttering or coughing)
We have an excellent FREE booklet on this subject if you ask one of our receptionists. You may also find our special interest group, The British Society for the Study of Craniomandibular Disorders (BSSCMD) helpful.