Two interesting facts about the TMJ; the TMJ wields more power, relatively, than any other joint in the body – because the mechanical leverages over which the muscles work are extremely efficient – compared with, say, the elbow joint. Secondly, the nerve power to the muscles of the jaw are highly susceptible to being recruited by the part of the brain that organises frustration, anger, tension, ‘life-pressure’, and so on – but this tension component is often unconscious.
As a result, thousands of people undergo orthodontic surgery and wear TMJ splints in an attempt to spread the load of this non-conscious ‘clenching’ in a way that is less likely to cause pain, and damage to teeth.
What is rarely considered is this deep-seated tension component – the jaw ‘bracing’ effect.
Having said that, the TMJ is a joint like any other. It is a complex hinge joint with a disc of cartilage that moves the central focus of the hinge forwards and backwards, depending upon how wide the mouth is to open. It is most commonly strained during dental surgery or high impact trauma.