The TMJ Connection: How Your Jaw Alignment Affects the Whole Body (with Infographic)
The Whole Body Connection Includes Your Mouth
The human body is a complex series of interconnected systems. As more research proves the connectedness of each system, such as the oral-systemic link or mind-body connection, societal conversations and medical practices reflect this.
So how does this relate to your body and quality of life? For temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder sufferers, this connection can have a big impact. Why? Because misalignment of the jaw has far-reaching effects. Just ask anyone with TMJ disorder.
How do you know if your jaw is misaligned? If you suffer from frequent headaches, jaw pain, and even ear ringing, you could be one of the more than 10 million Americans who suffers from TMJ disorder. TMJ disorder is defined as a problem with the muscles and joints in the face that cause these symptoms.
What causes TMJ disorder?
TMJ disorder is a complex problem that requires a full understanding of the whole picture of jaw function to properly determine the cause. A good analogy to understand how this works is to relate the TMJ to other muscle systems in the body.
Efficient movement and functionof the human body require muscle balance and strength. When muscles are balanced, normal amounts of opposing force between opposing muscles keep the bones centered in the joint during motion. When muscles become imbalanced due to poor posture, stress, repetitive movement or injury, the body compensates by making one muscle more dominant. When your muscles are unbalanced, your entire kinetic chain is disrupted and this affects all movement patterns and can lead to pain and injury.
The same is true for your jaw.
An imbalance in your temporomandibular joint can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, teeth grinding, limited jaw movement, muscle soreness and can change the alignment of your jaw. When your jaw alignment is off, the effects ripple through your entire body. These problems result in the symptoms of TMJ disorder (TMD) and can even negatively affect your posture. Conversely, poor posture can negatively affect your temporomandibular joint by placing unnecessary pressure on the area.
It’s unknown if poor posture is the cause or result of TMJ disorder, but there’s no question there is a close relationship, therefore, the entire craniomandibular system must be evaluated for thorough treatment. The craniomandibular system is comprised of the head, neck, and shoulder girdle. So that means this system includes your temporomandibular joint, facial and neck muscles, ligaments and nerves.
Dysfunction or trauma in one area can lead to problems in another. A comprehensive approach to treatment is necessary to provide relief.
Neuromuscular dentistry is a treatment philosophy intended to correct misalignment of the jaw at the temporomandibular joint to produce a balanced bite and body. In this practice, teeth, muscles, nerves, and the joint are all taken into consideration in how they function alone and together. Just like a personal trainer or physical therapist would assess and correct any muscle imbalances by looking at the entire picture to determine root cause, Dr. Alhadef will provide a comprehensive evaluation to identify the cause of your jaw imbalance.
Preventing Jaw Misalignment
Another interesting consideration is that research shows there is an association between malocclusion (misaligned teeth) and oral habits and craniofacial structure. Malocclusion can begin in early childhood due to oral habits such as non-nutritive sucking, tongue thrusting, or mouth breathing. While some of these things are a result of the craniofacial structure at birth due to genetics, others can be mitigated by parental influence, such as limiting or eliminating pacifier use past infancy. Malocclusion can impact the position of the jaw which has a ripple effect throughout the entire body. Some of these effects may not be noticeable until adulthood when most TMJ disorder symptoms arise, although some people have symptoms in the teenage years.
Treating TMJ Disorder with a Whole Body Approach
In summary, misaligned teeth can negatively affect the placement of your jaw which can cause pain in your face, neck, and shoulders. Common treatments for TMD include pain medications, stress-reducing techniques like acupuncture, massage, relaxation, oral appliances and splints or surgery.
How great would it be to experience relief without medication or surgery? Dr. Alhadef can help you with that. He will find your proper bite by using a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (or TENS) unit to relax the muscles. He can then locate where your bite is most relaxed and design a custom fit orthotic for you. Dr. Alhadef will let you know how many hours per day (or night) you will need to wear the appliance to correct the issue, as well as other treatment to resolve the problem long-term.
Finding the best position for your jaw is imperative to the rest of your body functioning properly.
Decoding Your Symptoms
Muscle Overcompensation or Decompensation
A misaligned jaw increases muscle strain in your face, neck, head, and shoulders. This is what causes common TMD symptoms like headaches, backaches, ear ringing and soreness around the jaw.
Neurological Symptoms from TMJ
Tight and strained muscles can put pressure on the nerves which lead to numbness or tingling in the face and throughout the upper body. These can be especially frightening symptoms that should always be checked immediately because these are also symptoms for other life-threatening illnesses.
Make your aappointment with Dr. Alhadef to have your symptoms evaluated.