5 Reasons Your Jaw Is the Most Complex Joint System in Your Entire Body

Understand how your jaw works

Getting to Know Your Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)

You know the importance of maintaining a healthy smile, but have you ever thought about the impact jaw health can have and how your jaw works? Conversations about oral health often focus on teeth and gums, while the topic of jaw health and function can be easily overlooked.

Jaw anatomy is surprisingly complex, but even a basic understanding of its function can help you notice signs of trouble before your oral health suffers. Test your knowledge with these five fascinating facts about your jaw.

1. The TMJ joints are synovial joints with sliding hinge mobility.

Synovial joints are the most common type of joint in the body, but temporomandibular joints are very unique. They are also classified as a ginglymoarthrodial joint, which means it hinges and glides. This sliding hinge mobility allows the TMJ to have a much broader range of motion than other synovial joints, or any other type of joint in the human body for that matter.

If you don’t have any jaw pain, take a moment right now to see how much your jaw can actually move. You can move your lower jaw forward, causing it to jut out, and move it backward. You can move your jaw from side to side, up and down, and even in a semicircle. It really goes to show how impressive these joints truly are!

2. Your jaw joints are the only double-joint system.

The human skeletal system has 360 different individual joints, but the temporomandibular joints are the only double-joint system that moves as a pair. In fact, since each joint is divided into two cavities, your jaw functions as if there are four joints moving in sync.

3. Your temporomandibular joints are used more than any other joint.

The temporomandibular joints are more active than any other joint system in the body. Think about how often you move your jaw. Eating, speaking, drinking, swallowing, and yawning are all actions that activate the TMJ. Certain oral disorders, like bruxism and open-mouth breathing, can stress on your jaw’s joints and muscles even more.

Because of how often the TMJ and surrounding muscles are used throughout the day, it’s clear why injuries and disorders in the jaw are especially uncomfortable and could even be downright debilitating. Unlike other physical injuries that can heal with rest, a different form of care is necessary to treat TMJ disorders.

4. The masseter is one of your body’s strongest muscles.

There is some debate about which of the body’s muscles is the absolute strongest, but the masseter is widely considered to take the trophy based on its weight.

The masseter is the very thick, rectangular-shaped muscle you use to open and close your mouth. Most of the muscle sits just in front of the TMJ and helps stabilize the joint during movement. Since the masseter plays an integral role in jaw and mouth movement, a disorder affecting the muscle can make chewing, speaking, and other oral function difficult and painful.

5. The average person has more than 150 lbs of bite force.

We may not have the biting power of some of the great apes, but modern humans do have an impressive bite force, considering we have less powerful jaws than predatory or omnivorous mammals similar in size.

When biting, the typical person has 120 to 160 pounds of force. Men generally have a stronger bite than women, and young to middle-aged adults will also have more biting power than children or the elderly. One study even had a male participant achieve a bite of 270 PSI, which is comparable to a German Shepherd dog!

What’s even more surprising is how bruxism exacerbates bite force. Statistics suggest that people with bruxism exert a force 6x greater than normal when grinding and clenching. No wonder bruxism can grind down teeth so rapidly.

Why do TMJ problems happen, and can they be reversed?

Considering the strength of the jaw and the complexity of the temporomandibular joints, it isn’t surprising that many people can experience problems. It is believed that upwards of 12% of the population have some form of temporomandibular disorder (TMD).

There are over 30 individual disorders that fall under the TMD blanket, all of which are categorized as either joint disorders, muscle disorders, or TMD-specific headaches and migraines. It isn’t uncommon for a person to have one or more of these three types occurring simultaneously.

Some common signs of an undiagnosed TMD include:

  • Jaw and neck pain, perhaps accompanied by back and shoulder pain
  • Frequent headaches and migraines with unknown cause
  • Audible or physical popping and clicking in the jaw when chewing or talking
  • Ringing in ears (tinnitus) with unknown cause
  • Muffled hearing or temporary loss of hearing
  • Difficulty chewing and speaking due to lack of mobility
  • Generalized tooth pain and visual signs of damage from bruxism (teeth grinding)

Left untreated, TMD will worsen, and accompanying symptoms will become more severe. In the case of symptoms like bruxism, your teeth can also become severely worn down and permanently damaged.

It’s important to listen to your body’s calls for help. If you’re experiencing jaw pain and headaches and feel like you’ve lost mobility in your jaw’s function, speak with a dentist experienced in jaw health. After your TMD has been diagnosed, your dentist can determine the underlying cause and develop an effective treatment plan to manage or reverse the disorder.

Treatment plans for TMD vary greatly but often include procedures like restorative care to repair teeth damaged from bruxism, orthodontic care to correct a bad bite, physical therapy or myofunctional therapy, or the use of an oral appliance, such as a mouthguard. In rare instances, surgery may also be necessary to alleviate complicated TMJ disorders.

Find relief from TMJ-related pain with a dentist in The Villages, FL.

Laurel Manor Dental isn’t just a haven for modern dentistry in a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere; it’s also a place where you can get relief from your temporomandibular disorders. We believe jaw health is an integral part of oral health as a whole, and we prioritize the early diagnosis and swift treatment of even the most minor jaw pain or discomfort. If you suspect you have a TMJ disorder, don’t wait to speak with a dentist about your symptoms. Take a moment right now to call our office or fill out this online form to schedule a consultation.