TMJ: An East Greenwich RI Chiropractor’s Perspective

Chiropractic East Greenwich RI TMJ

When people think about chiropractic in Greenwich RI, they usually only think about common musculoskeletal conditions such as neck and low back pain. What is amazing is that chiropractic focuses on so much more! This includes temporomandibular joint dysfunction or TMJD.

We know that at least 12% of the population suffers from TMJ at any given time. It is one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders, second only to back pain. If you’re suffering from TMJD, you may be experiencing these common TMJ symptoms - jaw pain, pain opening and closing your mouth, clicking or popping in the jaw, and pain from eating “normal foods.”

The temporomandibular joint is unique in that it’s considered a variation of a synovial joint. Similar to joints such as the knee, it is known as a hinge joint, meaning that it moves back and forth in a single direction (as the mouth opens and closes). The TMJ is located just in front of the ear, where the mandible bone meets the skull's temporal bone. Between these two bones, there is a disc made of fibrocartilage that cushions and supports the joint. As the mouth opens, the disc slides forward with the joint to maintain support and comfort. When TMJD occurs, it usually involves issues of disc displacement. This can lead to different symptoms and overall discomfort, causing people to seek treatment options that don’t utilize drugs or surgery.

How We Treat TMJ Pain in East Greenwich RI

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Comprehensive Consultation and Exam
At GBC, we understand that in order to get to the root cause of the problem, we really have to take the time to listen to your concerns. For this reason, with every TMJ patient we see, we always have a detailed consultation to understand their history with TMJ dysfunction better. This is always followed by specific orthopedic, neurological, and chiropractic tests, including range of motion (open and close, lateral deviation) to assess the TMJ and surrounding structures to ensure we're addressing the problem head-on.

Specific Chiropractic Care in East Greenwich, RI
We always take a comprehensive approach when caring for patients with TMJD. Often, this includes assessing the cervical spine and the muscles and nerves surrounding the upper cervical spine as they may contribute to the condition. Additionally, we find that people with TMJD may be experiencing neck pain or headaches. By finding misalignments in the cervical spine and correcting them, we re-align the vertebrae to take pressure off the nerves. Over time, this relieves pain and dysfunction and can improve overall mobility and functional health of the area.

Similar to the spine, the TMJ is a joint where two bones meet by way of a fibrocartilage disc. When the joint or disc becomes displaced, gentle chiropractic adjustments to this joint can help restore alignment and decrease pain. In order to achieve this safely and effectively, we always use a tool called the Arthrostim, which gently pulses to relax muscles, improve motion, and reposition the joint into the proper alignment. By taking the pressure off this area, many patients see a resolution of their symptoms.

Nutritional Guidance

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At Greenwich Bay Chiropractic, we also want to address environmental factors that may be contributing to the aggravation of your TMJ. This includes diet modification that removes aggravating foods, foods that require a lot of chewing, and excessive opening of the mouth. It sounds simple, but eating foods that include a lot of chewing, such as well-done meat and beef jerky, can place a lot of stress on the TMJ as it is the main joint involved in the chewing process. Additionally, foods that require you to open wide, such as eating a whole apple or chewing on hard candies, can overwork the muscles and further irritate the joint. Lastly, a less common cause would be using stimulants such as caffeine and energy drinks. We know that stimulants cause an increase of adrenaline hormones that increase muscle tone and tension and can even cause clenching without you realizing it. By removing these aggravating factors temporarily, you can give your body the best chance of success in healing.

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Common Symptoms of TMJD

Jaw Pain
The most common symptom of TMJD is jaw pain. Most often, jaw pain is accompanied by neck pain and headaches. This is why chiropractic care can be so vital because we can address the TMJ and the cervical spine simultaneously, giving you the best opportunity for success. Leading causes of this symptom include recent dental work, excessive stimulation such as talking for long periods or chewing gum, trauma, and joint degeneration otherwise known as arthritis.

Jaw Popping and Clicking
The second most common symptom is jaw clicking or popping. This can occur with or without jaw pain. Sometimes, it is just annoying, but it is still a sign of dysfunction. This typically occurs when the disc is displaced forward and is not congruent with the bony joint surfaces. When the mandible contacts the displaced disc, you can hear a click or a pop. Jaw popping may occur without pain initially and then with pain as the condition worsens.

Jaw Locking
Jaw locking is also a symptom of TMJD and can be scary when it happens. This happens when the disc of the TMJ is completely displaced forward and prevents the mandible from translating forward to open the mouth completely. This is almost always painful and usually limiting, reducing quality of life. Often, many patients with jaw locking will avoid their favorite foods and limit their choices when out to dinner with friends or family so as not to risk it locking in a public setting. This further decreases quality of life and overall happiness.

Jaw Clenching
aw clenching is another common symptom and is also a symptom of a larger problem. Jaw clenching can be caused by excess stress and anxiety due to many factors, including stress at home and in the workplace. In many cases, we see jaw clenching accompanying neck pain and headaches as the irritation of the muscles and nerves in the upper cervical spine can refer pain in the head, mimicking headache symptoms. This is why it is so important to understand the underlying cause of TMJD. By understanding the cause of jaw clenching, we can make recommendations that will address the root cause rather than chasing the symptoms.

Difficulty Chewing
We all love to chew our food. It sounds simple, but this is something that we take for granted when we feel good. Those who suffer from TMJD do not have the same luxury. You may have difficulty chewing due to either pain or limited range of motion from joint dysfunction or disc displacement. This almost always leads to being unable to enjoy the foods you usually enjoy and is another factor that reduces your quality of life. Reduced quality of life can increase stress and actually exacerbate the symptom tenfold. Difficulty chewing can be related to jaw locking because the jaw does not have the range of motion needed to perform the action, and excessive muscle tension built up over time. This is why it is so important to address the underlying cause so that we can address your symptoms as quickly, safely, and gently as humanly possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Chiropractic in East Greenwich RI help with TMJ?

Absolutely. At Greenwich Bay Chiropractic, a conservative approach to properly diagnose TMJD allows us to naturally get the best results possible.

How do you permanently fix TMJ?

The best way to fix a TMJ issue is to restore the natural function and range of motion of the TMJ and surrounding structures. While unpredictable environmental factors contribute to TMJ dysfunction, maintaining and restoring proper function will yield a long-lasting result.

Can chiropractors crack jaws?

Chiropractors can safely and effectively manipulate the TMJ to restore normal function. Additionally, a device called the Arthrostim can gently improve range of motion and function over time without “cracking” the jaw.

What happens if TMJ is left untreated?

Like any problem, if left unchecked, TMJ typically gets worse over time if the aggravating factors are still present. This compounds the problem and you may even see a worsening of your symptoms.

Can you fix TMJ without surgery?

Definitely! By restoring function and range of motion of the jaw, repositioning the disc, and improving the cervical spine function, many cases respond effectively to conservative care. Taking a comprehensive approach and working with dental providers makes it possible to get rid of TMJ without using drugs or surgery.


9:00am - 12:00pm
3:00pm - 6:00pm

9:00am - 12:00pm
3:00pm - 6:00pm

9:00am - 12:00pm
3:00pm - 6:00pm

9:00am - 12:00pm
3:00pm - 6:00pm


Saturday & Sunday

Greenwich Bay Chiropractic

16 Main Street
East Greenwich, RI 02818
Phone: (401) 408-4430
Fax: (401) 443-8818