If you’ve ever felt dizzy when first getting out of bed in the morning or standing after sitting for a long period, it’s a rather common occurrence. At one time or another in their lives, an estimated one-third of American adults experience brief spells of feeling lightheaded, unsteadiness or having a spinning sensation.
While there are a number of causes, it helps to understand the difference between being “dizzy” or experiencing what is known as vertigo.
Dizziness can cause one to feel off-balance, light-headed, unsteady, or faint.
With vertigo, there is a sensation of spinning, typically along with some symptoms of dizziness.
What causes these symptoms?
The tiny structures in the inner ear are actually a big part of our ability to stay balanced, relying on the vestibular system. This is a sensory system responsible for providing the brain with information about body movement and its position in relation to the environment (helping us to adjust to things such as climbing stairs or getting out of a car).
It is in this system where a link between the inner ear and brain exists. The brain integrates this information and signals the muscles on how to maintain balance. This connection is what keeps us able to maintain balance in a whole-body capacity for things like walking or while standing.
A disruption of the vestibular system can occur from an injury, illness that affects the inner ear, or certain conditions that can inhibit the system’s ability to function, which in turn can lead to an inability to maintain balance .
There can be a wide range of causes of having dizzy spells or vertigo, including:
• Neurological disorders
• Changes in blood pressure
• Ear-related problems
• Injuries or trauma to the head
• Certain medications
• Pregnancy and other hormonal changes
How is dizziness or vertigo related to the jaw joints?
The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are located just in front of the ears on each side of the head. These joints are where the lower jaw and skull connect. They are what allow the jaw to move in speaking, eating, and even yawning. There is even some movement when swallowing.
Obviously, these joints are in motion a lot throughout our lives. Ideally, these joints move fluidly and harmoniously. However, these joints can become inflamed when something causes an imbalance.
Keep in mind that the ears are in close proximity to the jaw joints. When inflammation in these joints reaches the ears, sensors in the inner ear disrupt the brain’s signals about your body’s position and movement. Hence, your sense of balance becomes off-kilter. The results can be a loss of balance or feeling dizzy, accompanied by any of the symptoms as mentioned previously.
Although seemingly unrelated, inflammation extending from the jaw joints to the inner ear can occur due to bite misalignment. The connection between the teeth, jaw joints, and inner ear is a zigzag of sorts, yet can be the true source of a number of problems. Here’s why …
When the upper teeth and lower teeth do not function in unity, the jaw joints can become stressed or strained. This, over time, can trigger inflammatory reactions that can lead to a number of problems.
Jaw discomfort or soreness
Headaches or migraines
Pain behind the eyes, in the face, shoulder, neck, and/or back
Earaches or ringing in the ears
Clicking, popping or locking of the jaw
Difficulty opening the mouth fully
Night-time clenching or grinding of the teeth
Dizziness or vertigo
Sensitivity of teeth (such as to heat or cold)
Numbness or tingling sensation in the fingers
A change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together
Thus, we are back to the inner ear. As a neuromuscular dentist, I have an advanced skill level in the interworkings of the bite, jaw joints and surrounding structures. In our Shelby Township dental office, I use computerized diagnostic equipment to pinpoint the oft-minute disparities that are actually the origination of dizziness, vertigo and the many problems that can occur. I often see patients who have seen specialists for dizziness, ear ringing, and other issues for years, finding little or no relief. Some are even told their bite is properly aligned by dental professionals who use antiquated methods (such as checking the bite with articulating paper).
When a misaligned bite or TMJ disorder is established as the actual source of these problems, we then determine the most conservative measures possible to help each individual regain comfort and balance. Here, in our Macomb County dental office, we provide complete dental care to cover nearly all needs. For those who have dental fears or anxiety, we offer oral and IV sedation as well.
If you are suffering with an imbalance that may be associated with TMJ problems, consider a no-charge consultation to discuss the diagnostic process and to learn our impressive success rate. To schedule, call 586-739-2155 or tap here to begin.
In the meantime, view a brief but informative video at: DrBarbatOnTMJ