TMJ Disorder & Ties To Other Health Problems

added on: June 29, 2024

Sometimes, it’s the smallest things that create big problems. This is especially true when it comes to the TMJ, the jaw joints.

TMJ is an abbreviation for the temporomandibular joints. These joints, located on each side of the head just in front of the ears, are what make it possible for side-to-side and front-to-back movements used during chewing and speaking. The muscles that interact with jaw movement are some of the most powerful in the body.

The TMJ is subject to dominant bouts of exertion because of the forces needed to bite and chew as well as the constant motion involved. Thus, these joints are at risk of damage just as much as any other weight-bearing joint in the body. While TMJ problems can be the result of trauma, such as a sports injury, it is generally due to bite misalignment. This is where those small things can be the source of some rather big issues.

Although people typically cannot see a disparity of their “bite,” the proper balance of how upper teeth and lower teeth meet has much to do with how the jaw joints function. The position of the teeth tie to the jaw joints like this…

Teeth are held (by their roots) by the upper and lower jaws. These jaw bones are intertwined with boney structures in the head and neck as well as muscles and nerves. The upper jaw (the maxilla) does not move. The lower jaw (the mandible), moves and is in motion a lot. The temporomandibular joints connect the lower jaw to the skull. Each side functions like a sliding hinge, combining a hinge action with sliding motions. These joint are cushioned by cartilage that absorbs impact to ensure a fluid, tension-free movement.

When the bite is misaligned (“malocclusion”), the upper teeth do not meet properly on lower teeth. This mis-fit can lead to stress within the joints, which can cause them to wear down over time and thin the cushioning components.

Although bite misalignment may never cause problems, some people develop a number of issues over time. Many of these problems seem so unrelated to bite misalignment or TMJ disorders that they are never properly diagnosed.

For example, people with TMJ are nearly three times as likely to have tinnitus. For those with tinnitus, they have a high pitched ringing sound in their ears (one or both). Some describe a hissing, roaring, clicking, or buzzing sound. At times, the sounds might change when opening or closing the jaw.

The connection between strain on the jaw joints and problems within the ear are intricate, but problematic for many individuals. The inner ear is actually housed in the temporal bone, which is part of the mandible. Thus, the jaw joints and inner ear are essentially roommates even though they seem to be in their own realms.

Two of the bones in the inner ear (often described as the “anvil” and the “hammer”) share muscle and nerve connections with the jaw, which can easily cause jaw problems to lead to ear problems. Inner ear problems can also lead to dizziness or vertigo (a sensation of uncontrolled spinning).

The list continues. A misaligned bite is typically the cause of night-time clenching or grinding of teeth (bruxism). When teeth hit one another improperly, it can result in chips, fractures or even breaks in teeth.

Common symptoms associated with TMJ disorders are:
• Difficulty or discomfort when biting or chewing
• Clicking, popping, or grating sounds when opening or closing the mouth
• Dull, aching pain in the face
• Jaw pain or tenderness
• Sore facial, neck, and shoulder muscles
• Locking of the jaw
• Difficulty opening or closing the mouth
• Worn down or chipped teeth

However, research has brought to light a number of health problems that seem to have a connection to TMJ disorders (TMD). They include:

– Sleep Apnea: Studies have shown a close relationship between the disorders TMD and sleep apnea. In one study, one-third of participants with TMJ disorder also suffered from obstructive sleep apnea. Through advanced imaging technology, researchers have become better able to track the connection.

In another study, 75% of patients who were diagnosed with sleep apnea also reported pain associated with their jaw joints. This prompted some dentists and physicians to advise their TMD patients to be tested for sleep apnea. For many, it was found that an oral appliance to resolve TMD also had advantages for sleep apnea sufferers.

– Frequent Headaches & Migraines: When stress or strain within the jaw joints occurs, it results in inflammation, which can extend to facial, neck and shoulder muscles. This causes the muscles in the head to become inflamed and tense, with headaches becoming a common occurrence.

– Chronic pain: Eighty-five percent of TMJ patients experience chronic pain in other parts of the body.

– Fibromyalgia: With the head, neck and shoulder muscles affected by TMD, this can tie in to the pain of Fibromyalgia, which affects muscles and other soft tissues throughout the body

– Rheumatic disease: For those who suffer with arthritis, the condition can affect the TMJ as a secondary condition.

– Other conditions: TMJ disorders have revealed connections to conditions such as asthma, back and neck pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, endometriosis, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, and heart disease.

As a Neuromuscular dentist in Macomb County MI, I have a unique understanding of the delicate balance that oral structures require. When it comes to the muscles, joints, bones and teeth working together, a Neuromuscular dentist can help you have the proper balance needed – and enjoy life without the problems and painful conditions associated with TMJ disorders. My wide-reaching reputation for properly diagnosing TMJ disorders has helped hundreds of adults finally find comfort, and to determine if their jaw joints are truly the source of problems in the mouth and beyond.

In addition to my neuromuscular dentistry skills, our Shelby Township dental office has incorporated extensive computerized imaging technology for accurate diagnosis and as an aid in effective treatment planning. Our advanced technology also means that patients can avoid unnecessary or lengthy treatment to receive the most conservative treatment for desired results.

And, for those who have dental fears or anxiety that has prevented them from receiving dental care – for TMD or any dental need – our Shelby Twp dental office offers oral and I.V. sedation (“twilight sleep”). These sedatives are administered by specially trained team members who use advanced safety equipment to provide the highest level of safety and comfort.

If you have symptoms or problems mentioned above that seem to have no established origin, or you suspect your jaw joints may be involved, don’t allow these issues to worsen and possibly create even greater health issues over time.

To discuss your options and the diagnostic process, call 586-739-2155 or Tap Here to request a free, private consultation.



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