Your face has forty-three muscles. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to communicate your feelings to others if some of these were missing or didn’t work?
When chewing, you use 4 other muscles, three for adduction (moving toward the midline of your body) and one for abduction (moving away from the midline). Oh, the difference that one letter makes! The strongest muscle, based on weight, is the Masseter which can close your mouth with a force as great as 55 pounds. It pulverizes most of the food in your mouth so it can mix with saliva, which starts the digestion process before entering your stomach.
The “hinge” that creates your chewing motion is called a “TMJ”, which stands for Temporo-Mandibular Joint. This joint is capable of moving up and down, as well as side to side, adding complexity to the proper diagnosis when it misbehaves. Some patients with rheumatoid arthritis, or gout, experience pain in this joint. Imaging is usually conducted to determine the area of dysfunction, which could include X-rays, a MRI, an ultrasound, or a CT scan.
One of the easiest ways to apply a little TLC to your TMJ is the avoidance of chewing gum. Also, stay away from meals that require a “monster-sized bite” to eat them.
The good news is that only 1% of patients experiencing pain in their TMJ actually require joint replacement surgery!