The relationship between how your jaws close and your posture is a delicate balancing act according to a September 2016 study by the University of Barcelona. This study examined the relationship between dental malocclusions and 10 participants’ physiological complaints about their balance, flexibility and range of motion. Study findings show a misaligned jaw impacts more than the mouth.
Malocclusion means "bad bite" and includes missing teeth, gaps and crowding. Most people have a varying degree of malocclusion as a result of genetics, the effects of poor dental hygiene, or injury. The study confirmed that these complaints improved when malocclusions were corrected by using neuromuscular dental techniques to ensure the alignment of the jaw was corrected to a neutral position.
The National Institute of Craniofacial Research estimates that over 10 million people in the United States suffer from a painful temporomandibular joint dysfunction, commonly known as TMJ. TMJ causes pain in the face, neck and ears and makes chewing painful or difficult. The disorder can cause clicking or popping sounds when opening and closing the mouth or while chewing. Some TMJ sufferers also report that their jaws can lock closed which can make opening the mouth difficult.
TMJ is a neuromuscular disorder that impacts the temporomandibular joints. The temporomandibular joints are located on each side of the face where the lower jaw connects to the skull. The construction of the temporomandibular joint is unique compared to other joints, because of its hinge action coupled with its ability to slide. The joint is also made up of cartilage and has 2 small disks known as condyles that serve to cushion bones when the joint is engaged.
TMJ occurs when cartilage becomes worn, or when the jaw shifts out of place. These conditions allow the jaw and the temporomandibular joint to painfully rub against each other when in use. Other causes of TMJ include arthritis, injury and behaviors such as grinding teeth.
The pain associated with TMJ can be intermittent or long-lasting. Numerous TMJ patients experience long lasting, chronic pain coupled with ringing in the ears, dizziness and vision problems. TMJ sufferers often feel their quality of life is diminished because of TMJ and its many side effects and believe that the pain impacts their jobs, relationships and their ability to participate in activities or interests. Many patients, despite their pain and discomfort, do not seek out professional treatment to treat or cure their TMJ symptoms.
TMJ patients may not seek professional care for TMJ pain because symptoms are sporadic. Many sufferers manage their pain with over the counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen. Relaxation techniques, cold therapy and limiting jaw movement also can also help ease symptoms for some people. While these self-care treatments help patients temporarily manage their TMJ pain, they do not treat the underlying cause of the disorder. Other patients seeking care from professionals may find themselves redirected back to self-care treatments to manage their symptoms, become frustrated and give up hope of leading a pain-free life.
Headaches are one of the most common symptoms of TMJ, also known as tempromandibular joint disorder. The pain and discomfort can become unbearable, disrupting a patient’s day to day life and making everyday tasks impossible to perform. While treating the symptoms with pain medication can provide temporary relief, it’s not a permanent solution. Dr. Norman often recommends a neuromuscular dentistry approach for her patients suffering from headaches as a result from TMJ.
While traditional dentistry primarily focuses on the teeth, gums and bones, neuromuscular dentistry concentrates on the hard and soft tissues, muscles and nerves and why these components must work in sync with one another to function properly and pain-free. If you haven’t heard of neuromuscular dentistry, it’s not surprising. This form of dentistry is finally starting to gain traction in the dental field. Dr. Norman explains to her patients that it’s a type of dentistry that “focuses on the healthy relationship among the teeth, jaw joints, and head and neck muscles. Neuromuscular dentistry treats TMJ at its root cause, not at its symptoms.” And that’s why it’s proven to be successful for TMJ-related headaches.
Neuromuscular dentistry focuses on correcting and realigning a patient’s bite and jaw. When the jaw is misaligned, it creates unnecessary tension which can trigger headaches or migraines. Repositioning the jaw to an optimal position and realigning the tempromandibular joint can significantly alleviate the painful symptoms associated with TMJ, most notably, headaches.
If you suffer from TMJ-related headaches, contact our office today at 425-339-9145 to see if you’re a candidate for neuromuscular dentistry.