Masticatory disorders. Causes.

Masticatory disorders, known medically as temporomandibular disorders, are a category of conditions affecting the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and the muscles involved in the chewing process. These disorders can cause headaches, facial pain, sore throat, earache, difficulty opening the mouth, jaw lock, joint noises and difficulty chewing or speaking.


The causes of chewing disorders can be multiple and complex, but the most common are:

  1. Trauma: trauma to the head or neck, such as a car accident or contact sport, can lead to temporomandibular joint damage and the development of chewing disorders.

  2. Stress: chronic stress can affect the muscles involved in chewing and lead to tension and pain in the temporomandibular joint area.

  3. Dental problems: dental conditions such as tooth decay, ill-fitting dentures or missing teeth can cause chewing problems.

  4. Muscle imbalance: an asymmetry in the strength or activity of the muscles involved in chewing can lead to overuse of part of the temporomandibular joint and the development of chewing disorders.

  5. Unhealthy habits: habits such as chewing gum, chewing nails or sucking your thumb can contribute to chewing disorders.


Treatment of chewing disorders varies depending on the cause and severity of symptoms.

Some treatment methods may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, behavioral therapy or, in severe cases, surgery.

It is important to consult a dentist or temporomandibular dysfunction specialist to determine the exact causes and establish an appropriate treatment plan.

Physical therapy may include exercises for the muscles involved in chewing, which can help improve their strength and flexibility.

Occupational therapy may include instruction on how to chew and position the jaw, as well as changing the unhealthy habits mentioned above.

Anti-inflammatory medications may be used to reduce pain and inflammation associated with chewing disorders.

Behavioral therapy may include relaxation and stress management techniques, which can help reduce muscle tension and pain.

In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct structural problems or to remove inflamed or hypertrophic tissues.

The doctor will discuss the treatment options available and determine which is best for each patient’s individual situation.

In general, treating chewing disorders can be challenging, but with the right treatment plan, symptoms can be managed and, in some cases, even eliminated.

It is important to pay attention to symptoms and seek medical help as soon as possible to avoid worsening the condition and maximize the chances of recovery.

Chewing is a complex process that the patient triggers voluntarily when putting food into the mouth.

This act consists of rhythmic movements of the jaw designed to cut, crush and grind food between the dental arches.

As the first step in the food digestion process, mastication must be performed completely and correctly to facilitate the other steps.

There are several factors that can disrupt this mastication process and these are:

Limited food prehension

When the mouth opening is incomplete, most often due to trauma or muscle or joint inflammation, the food does not reach the arches and the other chewing times will not be able to proceed correctly.

Also, in arthroses, abscesses, tumors or some congenital malformations, wide mouth opening is impossible. Treatment of the cause or surgery to correct the abnormality is the solution in this case.

Decreased masticatory force

When the periodontium, teeth and mucous membranes can no longer participate in mastication to their full capacity, the force to crush food decreases.

This will cause pieces of incompletely chewed food to be swallowed, making the subsequent digestion processes more difficult.

Position abnormalities, decay or infection of the teeth, as well as periodontal and mucosal damage drastically reduce chewing efficiency.

Shortening chewing time

In the case of ulcerations, lesions or infections that cause pain during chewing, the patient has a normal tendency to avoid extensive chewing. The movements of the jaw will be superficial and the duration of the process will be shortened.

Nerve damage

Impulses sent by receptors in the oral cavity via the trigeminal, facial and glossopharyngeal nerves stimulate the muscles of the tongue, cheeks and lips. Paralysis of these nerves or of the swallowing center decreases chewing efficiency.

Lack of motor coordination in psychopathy, neuroses or hysterics leads to incomplete or non-existent masticatory action.

Poor dental health

Damaged occlusal surfaces can no longer produce efficient food grinding. Missing dental units lead to contact of food with the gingival fibromatosis, thus risking injury.

Poorly fitting coronal fillings

Fillings that do not follow the dental contour can limit the physiological movements of the jaw and cause irritation of the periodontium, which plays a role in keeping teeth in the socket.

Once the periodontium is affected, bone resorption and gingival retraction occur, with adverse consequences for the maintenance of teeth on the arches.

Incorrect orthodontic treatments

Orthodontic treatments that only aim to restore the aesthetic appearance and not to correct malposition led to poor occlusal ratios.


Mandibular bone fractures in which we have displacement of fragments lead to changes in the masticatory act.

Displacements of dental units

For example, in periodontal disease, the absence of neighboring teeth or inflammatory processes destroy occlusal harmony and cause interferences that prevent the correct masticatory action.

Disturbance of the functions of the masticatory apparatus will lead to major digestive disorders consisting of disturbances in the secretion of gastric enzymes, disturbances in the movement of the food bowl to the lower structures of the digestive apparatus, liver or bile disorders.

All these disorders lead to severe malnutrition, as the patient refuses to eat more solid foods because the oral cavity is unable to perform a complete and efficient masticatory act.

The doctor will present the available treatment options and determine the best option for each patient’s situation.

In general, treating mastication disorders can be challenging, but with the right treatment plan, symptoms can be managed and, in some cases, even eliminated.

It is important to pay attention to symptoms and seek medical help as soon as possible to avoid worsening the condition and maximize the chances of recovery.

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