The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a complex joint connected to different muscles and nerves – not just in your face, but even to your neck and back. Many people don’t realize that this small joint can affect your overall well-being much more than facial pain or discomfort while chewing. Interestingly, many symptoms related to TMJ disorders are symptoms that are common to many other illnesses. Because these symptoms are non-specific, it’s hard to pinpoint TMD as the culprit for many of the discomforts people experience. We’ll take a look at some of the more common overlooked symptoms that may be caused by TMD.
It’s not uncommon to think that your your migraine is triggered by things like food, the weather, or even bright lights. Migraines are symptoms that can be linked a host of illnesses, but they’re also treated as an illness in themselves. Globally, around one billion people get migraines, with 2% of the global population suffering from chronic migraines.
Headaches associated with TMD often occurs on one or both sides of the temples, and are often mistaken for tension headaches or sinus headaches. How does this happen? Research suggests that it is mainly through the trigeminal nerve. This major nerve in the cranium is connected to your mandibular nerve. The mandibular nerve is connected to – you guessed it – your TMJ. The mandibular nerve is responsible for both motor and sensory functions of the jaw area. So when your jaw muscles are especially tense or tired, it sends signals through your mandibular nerve and trigeminal nerve. This then prompts your brain to release chemicals that result in pain and throbbing in your head.
This is why it might be a good idea to not just with your neurologist about your migraines, but also a dentist specializing in TMJ.
Back pain is the leading cause of years lived with disability worldwide, affecting around 540 million people at any one time. The most common type is non-specific back pain – which is to say, doctors don’t know what’s causing it. This is a problem, because not being to identify the pain precludes finding the right treatment. Oftentimes, the response is simply to prescribe pain medication to manage the discomfort, but not address the root cause (which is unknown).
An bad bite or misaligned jaw causes your face muscles to work overtime. Once the facial muscles are tired, they call on the adjacent connected muscles to provide extra support. This includes your neck and upper back muscles. This load is on top of the regular functions your neck and back muscles are doing – all of which inadvertently cause muscle fatigue and upper back pain. A forward head posture is often a cue to this variety of TMJ-related problem.
Common therapy for neck and upper back pain is massage, but this only provides temporary relief. More often than not, the problem recurs because the jaw is still not in the ideal position. Having your bite checked and corrected may help you address the real cause of your upper back and neck pain.
Snoring Or Sleep Apnea
Nearly one million people in the world have sleep apnea, or chronic sleep-disordered breathing. Approximately 7% of men and 5% of women have sleep apnea. The disorder causes other health concerns, such as chronic fatigue due to lack of adequate rest, or even increased risk in heart disease. A telltale sign of sleep apnea is loud snoring, which occurs when the airways are partially obstructed.
Unknown to many, sleep apnea is often connected to underdevelopment of the jaws. When your jaw is undersized, your upper and lower teeth won’t meet in the right way. This can cause narrowed airway space as your jaw shifts backwards, and the rest of your head moves forward to compensate and re-open the narrowed airway. This is why many people with TMD have a forward hunch or forward head posture.
Sleep apnea is often treated with devices that force air through the nose and throat to avoid them from collapsing or being restricted. However, this simply addresses the breathing while asleep, and doesn’t removed the problem of partially obstructed airways due to a misaligned jaw. If TMD is the root cause of sleep apnea, the proper treatment should be a re-alignment of the jaw bone to clear the airway at a
Do you suffer from one or more of the symptoms above? It might be that TMD is causing all these problems to surface. The best way to verify is through an appointment with a TMJ specialist, who can check your jaw alignment and propose the right long-term treatment for a lifetime of wellness – not just for your bite, but for your whole body.