If you experience dizziness (also referred to as vertigo), this off-balance sensation can place you in an unsure frame of mind, not to mention put your safety at risk.
The latin origin of the word ‘vertigo is “a whirling round.” Vertigo is observed in a number of diseases and causes dizziness and a loss of balance. It can also cause confusion, nausea, lightheadedness, and the feeling of being pulled downward.
Although the cause is often unknown in many cases, problems involving the inner ear are a common cause of vertigo. In addition to a head injury, migraines and lengthy period of bedrest, other contributing factors include:
• Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV; a mechanical inner-ear disorder)
• Meniere’s disease (a progressive ear disease)
• Vestibular neuritis (inflammation of the vestibulocochlear nerve)
• Labyrinthitis (a condition caused by inner ear infection)
• TMJ (jaw joint) disorder
The inner ear is the common culprit in the majority of vertigo cases. However, the position and fluid motion of your jaw joints (TMJ) and bite alignment are often-overlooked as contributing factors. Research has found that disorders of the temporo-mandibular joint can lead to balance disparities as well as cause nausea and vision problems.
Recent research has found that vertigo and TMJ Disorder have a deeper correlation than once thought. In these cases, bite misalignment is resolved to reduce tension in connected jaw muscles. This can often eliminate the symptom of dizziness.
But, where is the connection? One suspected pathway is in how the jaws and inner ear share a common ligament. Hence, the bones that are intricately responsible in hearing are also closely connected with the anatomy of the temporo-mandibular joint.
Because a TMJ disorder triggers stress and strain on structures associated with the jaw joints, this jointly-shared ligament can be pulled from its natural position. The trickle-down effect means the middle ear structure, which is responsible for maintaining equilibrium, becomes off-kilter. However, this is but one scenario. A TMJ disorder can affect the inner ear in other ways as well.
The TMJ is actually a rotating hinge that joins the lower jaw to the head. It houses a “socket” that is also part of the temporal bone. TMJ Disorder (or ’TMD’) may move this temporal bone just enough to shift the connected components out of position as well.
Although the relationship to the TMJ and inner ear are gaining more attention for those who suffer with vertigo, many medical practitioners are not fully aware of the connection. This is why the most effective route to treatment may be seeing a Neuro-muscular Dentist. This is a dentist who is a trained TMJ specialist and is structured to help establish a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
The symptoms of TMD include clicking or popping jaw joints, depression, facial pain, frequent headaches or migraines, jaw pain, limited jaw movement, neck and shoulder pain, numbness or tingling in the fingers, tinnitus (ear ringing) and sleep apnea.
In addition to bite realignment, prevention or reduction of factors such as bruxism, jaw clenching and other things that may cause muscle inflammation give the body the opportunity to repair itself. However, the most effective diagnosis – that is the origin of an effective treatment plan – may include:
• TENS Therapy ( transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation): This is an electrical impulse unit that is used to relax the jaw muscles and to allow it to settle into its natural position. Once the natural resting position is established, a properly fitted mouth piece can retrain the jaw muscles to rest in the correct position.
• TMJ Orthotics: Customized orthotic (a device resembling an athlete’s mouth guard.) is particularly effective for realigning the jaw. Many patients report near-immediate relief of vertigo symptoms they have had for years once an orthotic is used.
• Restorative Dentistry: In some cases, a ‘bad bite’ is caused by the way that the teeth come together in biting, chewing and at rest. While mouth pieces may temporarily resolve the problem, the position of the teeth may cause a bad bite to reoccur. In these cases restorative dentistry may be required to ensure a proper bite and avoid re-emergence of TMD symptoms.
The relationship between TMJ and vertigo symptoms are still being studied. To fully establish the culprit of vertigo as TMJ disorders, proper testing by a trained, experienced Neuro-Muscular dentist is the most efficient way to resolve the many symptoms that can result.
If dizziness, a sense of being off-balance, or other symptoms are causing you concern, consider that your jaw joints may play a bigger role than is often obvious. Call toll free 1-866-9-Smiles for a private, no-cost consultation appointment. We’ll discuss your symptoms, medical and dental history, and methods for diagnosis and treatment that may be right for you.