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TMJ 102 - Biomechanics


Any medical/health information in this post is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based on such information, I encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance of any information contained in this course is solely at your own risk.

How does the jaw work?

As we mentioned in the TMJ 101 post, the jaw joint works like a hinge to open and close the jaw. It also works in other directions to move your jaw side to side and forward and backward.

Next time you take a bite of food or brush your teeth, notice the different directions in which your jaw moves. There’s a lot going on!

When the TMJ is running smoothly, it moves like this:

As you can see, the disc is designed to stay between the bones for normal movement.

When someone has a jaw problem, movement can be painful, limited, or be accompanied by sounds like clicking or popping.

Usually, people notice problems when they are doing things that require lots of jaw motion, such as when eating, brushing teeth, yawning, kissing, or talking.

Often, these problems exist when there are issues with how the joint is moving or with the structures in and around the joint.

When someone is experiencing a jaw issue, one of three problems is usually occurring:

  1. The disc is not in the proper position

  2. The muscles are overworked

  3. The structures inside the joint are irritated

Of course, there are other jaw problems that exist beyond this list, some of which involve other parts of the jaw, the neck, teeth, ears, and airway. We work regularly with people who don’t fit into any of the categories above, but the above list covers the most common issues.

A thorough physical exam and history is can help figure out exactly what is going on in each case. Reach out to us via the “Contact Us” page if you’d like to see if we’re a good fit to help you.


Dr. Rebecca Salstrand, PT


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