Your jaw joint is a complicated joint incorporating your skull, lower jaw, ligaments, muscle attachments, a disc and fluid spaces. It has the ability to make tiny movements with only slight pressure to sip through a straw, or strong pressure when biting into hard food or wide opening with a yawn. All of these movements are coordinated through the facial, head and neck muscles.

Your lower jaw is cushioned in a hollow in the base of the skull with a boney prominence in front of it to stop the jaw joint disarticulating forward.  In between the head of your lower jaw and the base of the skull is a series of ligaments and a disc.  The disc slides with the lower jaw forward and backward protecting the joint with the ligaments holding it in place.  The muscles attach to the lower jaw allowing it to move.  Some muscles are more obvious that others!  The muscle on your cheek connects to the outside base of the lower jaw and up to your temple area where it joins with the muscle that fans across your head to the midline on both sides.  You can feel these muscles bulge and lengthen when opening and closing your jaw.  There is also a long muscle down the side of your neck that connects to the skull behind the jaw joint and down your neck to your collar bone.  This muscle connects to muscles inside the back of your mouth to the skull and ligaments for finer movements.

Your jaw joint can click and grate as we age, but also when we are stressing it out.  When we clench and grind our teeth, we are constantly making the joint move so we stretch the ligaments.  When the ligaments stretch, we can make the disc move erratically because it doesn’t slide as well with the lower jaw and the jaw will clunk and click over it. The jaw can also go over the boney prominence at the front with quite a clunk! Often though the first symptoms are from your large muscles on the cheek, neck and head resulting in headaches, muscle aches, stiffness in the neck, tenderness in the ear and sometimes also in the eye.

Treatment for issues with your facial, head and neck muscles and jaw joint range from physiotherapy, to daytime awareness of clenching and grinding, to making a nightguard to help prevent damage at night.  If you are having issues, please contact us and we will see what we need to do to help you.

In clinic news we are booked in for the upcoming Infection Control Day with the Australian Dental Association to go over the new Australian Standard for Infection Control.  There will be photos on our socials!  Adelaide Oval here we come!  Dr Nick Heide, Sarah (hygienist) and Trudy have moved south of the city. Dr Catherine Chow has extended her hours to cover.

See you in the clinic!  The Adelaide City Dental Care Team.

PS:  check out our socials (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram) for top tips for teeth, mouth and gums and dental family snaps!  Maybe even the latest video on YouTube.

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