Masticatory disorders

Masticatory disorders

A disorder of the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) is probably the most common finding when a patient is observed for masticatory disorders. These occur for several reasons. Clenching of the jaws or grinding of the teeth can lead to pain in the chewing muscles and the joint. Dysfunction can also be caused by trauma or joint disease.

The crunch when opening or even when closing the mouth is the most common sign encountered during a disorder of the masticatory joint. This produces when there is a disturbance between the articular disc and the condyle (head of the mandible). In the vast majority of cases, crackling is rarely painful. However, pain may arise in a patient with very severe joint dysfunction.

The pain and stiffness of the muscles around the jaw can often be the result of parafunction, that is, tightness of the teeth and bruxism. These are often caused by psychological stress. Clenching of teeth and bruxism are the result of the unnecessary and exaggerated contraction of chewing muscles. This in the long run causes muscle fatigue accompanied by pain and stiffness. Premature wear of teeth is often a sign of parafunction and the use of an occlusal plate can prevent this.



Here are other possible causes for the development of joint disorders:

  • Sports injury
  • Auto accident
  • Ankylosis of the condyles (fusion of the bones of the joint)
  • malocclusions
  • Abnormality in the shape of the mandible or maxillary
  • Hypermobility of the jaw
  • Abnormal position of the joint disc


Here are some symptoms that may indicate temporomandibular joint dysfunction:

  • Squeak or clench your teeth day or night
  • Stiffness in the jaw on waking
  • Frequent headaches
  • Pain or joint crunches increased by stress
  • Articulation cracks or blocks
  • Pain at the opening of the mouth
  • Difficulty opening your mouth
  • Closing your teeth to a position that differs from your usual position
  • Pain while chewing certain foods
  • Sensitive or mobile teeth


Several treatments are possible for the problems of the jaw. The sequence varies according to the individual and the diagnosis. The treatment plan usually includes a multidisciplinary approach with some care provided by a team of professionals and others by the patient himself at home. Initially, we try to eliminate muscle spasms and joint pain. Medication or infiltration can be used. Home care is also important at this stage. Stress management, physiotherapy or osteopathy techniques may be indicated. Making a clear plastic appliance (occlusal plate) that fits your teeth helps to relax the jaw muscles and reduce pain. This device can also be worn at night to prevent premature wear of the teeth. The correction of occlusion by equilibration, orthodontics or surgery may be considered in some cases of severe malocclusion or when conservative treatment does not give the expected results.