Headaches are one of the most common symptoms of a TMJ (temporomandibular joint) problem. Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, and the TMJ headache is a tension type of headache. It is often described as a feeling of wearing a hat two sizes too small, with pain in a ring around the head, or as a migraine headache.
There are a few TMJ-related causes for tension headaches. Constant contraction of muscle fibers within a muscle, create tension, pressure or a tight feeling in the face and head, but constant tight muscle fibers prevent or reduce blood flow to that area. The body sends more blood to the areas and this can result an increase in general blood pressure to the muscles and head, sometimes referred to as vascular headaches. Clenching and grinding the teeth, which are TMJ symptoms, produce pain from the muscles in the head, which is a headache.
Unfortunately, these headaches can be so frequent or severe that they are frequently misdiagnosed and treated as migraine headaches.
The pain from muscle headaches can be blocked with medications, or nerves cut with brain surgery or muscles somewhat relaxed with muscle and psychological therapy, but the cause of the disease and damage from the bad bite, malocclusion, will persist. Side effects with medications, complications from brain surgery, and limited results with muscle or psychological therapy do not correct the source of the problem. Neuromuscular dentistry ensures the muscles are happy because they do not have to work hard positioning the teeth to a strained bite.
By putting the temporomandibular joint back into alignment and placing the jaw into its optimal position, neuromuscular dentistry can alleviate most headache problems related to TMJ, muscle, nerve and joint disorders.
The jaw area of the face is a complex network of bones, joints, muscles, and nerves. When the jaw becomes unaligned, the surrounding bones, muscles, and nerves are also affected. This includes the muscles of the face, which experience strain or spasm because the muscles are working extra hard to compensate for the unstable bite. A neuromuscular dentistcan help facial pain problems by working with the source of the problem, the bite. Your neuromuscular dentist will stabilize and realign your bite so that the teeth, muscles, and joints all work together without stress.
Having a “bad bite” (malocclusion) causes an imbalance in the jaw-to-skull relationship, which in turn twists the jaw into a strained position that refers pain to the muscles in the neck, shoulders, and back.
Muscles work as a team. Seldom does a single muscle work without other muscles in the team joining in. The bones in the neck, especially the atlas and axis, are intimately involved with the muscles of chewing, biting, talking, breathing, and head posture. Sore, tight, contracted muscles of the jaw will tilt the head and shoulders causing compensation from neck, shoulder and back muscles. Although theneuromuscular dentist does not claim to treat neck, back, shoulder, or arm pain, patients are pleased how frequently these problems can be relieved.
Neuromuscular dentists understand that the bones, joints, muscles, and nerves in the face and neck have a complex relationship. They work to correct the bite, relieving strain on the jaw and the surrounding muscles. Once the bite has been aligned, resulting pain in many areas of the body disappears.
Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ears)
Ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, is another symptom of TMJ that is commonly misdiagnosed and often goes untreated or is treated ineffectively. In many cases ringing in the ears is one of the results of having a strained bite in which the jaw is not aligned. The jaw area of the face is a complex network of muscles and nerves, and when the bite is misaligned muscles and nerves throughout the head, including the ears, can be affected.
If your neuromuscular dentist diagnoses the cause of your tinnitus to be an unstable or misaligned bite, he or she can work with the source of the problem by stabilizing and realigning the bite so that the entire jaw area works together without pain. Your bite will be back to its normal position, relieving theringing in your ears that was caused by the misaligned bite.
Sensitive or sore teeth are common symptoms of TMJ. If the teeth are the cause of TMJ then any or all of the teeth may be sore. The teeth may also become sensitive because of clenching or grinding the teeth, a common action in many people, when the disc of the TMJ is displaced.Unfortunately, when seeking relief from this tooth pain many patients are misdiagnosed and may even go as far as having the nerve from the tooth removed with root canals or even having the tooth extracted. The worst part is that these measures may not relieve the pain, and can actually make it worse!
Neuromuscular dentists relieve sensitive and sore teeth related to TMJ by going to the source of the problem-the “bad bite” and misaligned jaw. In most cases, correction of the bite can be accomplished without the use of surgery, and patients report long-lasting pain relief.
The nerves and muscles in the jaw area of the face are very complex, so when your bite is off, these nerves and muscles are also affected. A misaligned bite can cause the muscles throughout the jaw, face, neck and shoulders to go into spasm. When these muscles (scalenes) are in spasm they can pinch the nerves (brachial plexis) leading down the arms and into the hands, which in turn results infeelings of numbness or tingling.
Neuromuscular dentists can help you with numbness or tingling in your hands or arms by working with the source of the problem-your bite. Once your bite is aligned, the muscles affected by the jaw joint will be able to go back to their normal function, relieving the spasm and the numbness and tingling that are felt as a result.
Clicking, popping, or snapping in the jaw joint is the most common symptom of TMJ. There may or may not be pain in the jaw when the clicking or popping sound is heard. The clicking sound may even be so loud that others can hear it when you chew or speak.
Usually the cause of the popping jaw is a displaced disc in the jaw. The jaw joints are ball and socket joints, just like the shoulder joint. When ball and socket joints are functioning properly, the ball and socket do not touch because of a thin disc of cartilage located between the ball and socket. This disc of cartilage is held in place and guided by a muscle.
If your bite is not right or trauma tears the tissues the jaw joint is pulled out of alignment, and the disc is typically pulled forward or torn. Now that the cartilage disc is not serving as a cushion between the ball and socket these bones are rubbing against each other and pressing on nerves, causing pain in the jaw and clicking or popping sounds in the jaw joint. The muscles holding the disc in place are now strained as well, causing additional pain in the jaw and face as well as in the head, neck, back and shoulders.
Limited jaw movement or locking jaw may feel like the lower jaw is catching when the jaw is opened. In some cases a person with a locked jaw must move the jaw to one side or the other in order to open the mouth wide. A person might also have to open the mouth until a popping sound is heard and felt, at which point the jaw unlocks.
While not a physical symptom, the majority of people suffering from TMJalso suffer from depression, usually as a result of their condition being so commonly misdiagnosed or dismissed as having no physical cause. There is also scientific evidence that shows that patients with chronic pain, a condition that nearly all TMJ patients can claim, have chemical changes in the brain as a result of the pain. These chemicals can cause depression.
Because TMJ is a multifaceted disorder, many patients need to work with more that one specialist to return to optimal health. Some patients work with a neuromuscular dentist as well as a psychological counselor and sometimes a chiropractor or physician. However, other patients experience complete pain relief from the treatment their neuromuscular dentist provides and the peace of mind that comes from having their condition diagnosed and treated. Speak with yourneuromuscular dentist about your personal needs