Do You Have These Symptoms?
- Back Pain
- Neck Pain
- Ringing in the Ears
Call us at 303-688-2229 today to schedule a TMJ treatment consultation!
Pain is something we can all relate to. Headaches, backaches, sore neck - we’ve all been there. When people start to suffer chronic pain, it has a significant impact on their lives, and it takes a lot of energy to try and function when you’re in chronic pain.
Many people go to their medical doctor for treatment and will sometimes find a solution that masks the symptoms such as painkillers and muscle relaxers. But that doesn’t address the problem. The problem is not a medical problem, but a functional problem, and it needs a functional solution. The balance and function of the body needs to be restored.
What you may not know is that a large portion of that balance comes from how your teeth mash together. There’s been a lot of research done on this particular issue. Doctor Roger Sperry, who won the Nobel Prize, for brain research says better than 90% of the energy output of the brain is used in relating to the physical body in its gravitational field. The more mechanically distorted a person is, the less energy is available for thinking, metabolism and healing.
So, what’s it called when a person’s head and neck become mechanically distorted?
Well, different groups give it different names. Medical doctors may call it CFP or chronic facial pain. Patients quite often call it TMJ, which stands for the temporomandibular joint, but as a dentist, I like to be a little more pure and call it temporomandibular disorder, or TMD. Conservative estimates indicate that 25% or 30% of the population suffers from TMD. But, in my opinion, if you include those who have signs of TMD but no pain, it probably gets closer to 70% of the population.
To understand TMD, you need to know a little bit about the anatomy. First, we have the human body. On top of the shoulders, of course, is the neck. On top of that is the head or skull. Attached to the skull is the lower jaw. The lower jaw is slung in muscles. As a matter of fact, if you were to cut those muscles, the lower jaw would fall to the ground. And the lower jaw has a bracing point called the temporomandibular joint, and it is a unique joint that’s not only able to rotate, but also able to slide forward and from side to side, but we can’t stop there.
We also have to look at how the head sits on the neck. More specifically, how the head and the first two of the seven neck vertebrae relate to each other, because that is intimately involved in how the lower jaw functions. All joints in the body can flex, and even over flex, except for one -the TMJ. That’s because when the upper and lower teeth mash together, the jaw stops moving. We call that a terminal bite position. We have to bring the teeth together many thousands of times each day, whether it’s to swallow, to chew, or just to bring your teeth together to brace or clench.
This brings us back to a balance issue. When your bite is not balanced, there’s a ripple effect through your body. We call this TMD, or temporomandibular disorder. Now, the effects of TMD can include headaches and migraines, neck aches and postural changes, ringing in the ears, dizziness, clicking or grating of the jaw joints, grinding and chipping of the teeth, recession of the gum tissue, jaw aches, facial pain, pain behind the eyes and even sleep disorders such as snoring or sleep apnea.
What causes TMD?
The most common cause for a person to develop is TMB is breathing issues as a very young child. As a child, the upper jaw grows between two strong forces in the mouth. The tongue, the U-shaped muscle pushing out from the back of the upper teeth, and the lips and teeth pushing in on the upper teeth. As the body grows, this balance of muscle forces between the tongue and the lips and cheeks creates a perfectly shaped upper arch of bone giving the perfect amount of room for your teeth. Again, this is balance; the ideal of what should happen.
But sometimes, and more often in modern society than you may think, pollution and even modern dies can create allergies in children. These allergies will restrict the flow of air through the nose of the child. We all have to breathe. If we cannot breathe through our nose, we will breathe through our mouth. But to do that, we must move our tongue from its normal resting position at the roof of our mouth behind our front teeth and have it sit lower in the mouth behind our bottom teeth. That way, air can pass over the tongue and allow the child their precious breath. This very simple change in the position of the tongue has far reaching consequences in the development of the face, the jaws, the jaw joints and the teeth. Mouth breathers, even part time ones, will develop a narrower and V-shaped upper jaw and tooth position. The lower teeth and the lower jaw must now shift in order to allow you to bring your teeth together.
Do you remember playing with a peg board as a child? You know when that a U-shaped peg goes into a U-shaped hole, but a u shaped peg does not fit within a V-shaped hole. The lower jaw is still U-shaped. The upper jaw is now V-shaped, and the two of them do not mesh together properly.
Let’s get one more childhood memory. Do you remember the song we all used to sing? “The jaw bone’s connected to the head bone, and the head bone’s connected to the neck bone, and the neck bone’s connected to the…” Well, you remember the rest of the song. Well the song is true. When you disturb the balance relationship between the upper and lower jaw, the effects descend through your body in a myriad of different ways.
The first effect is with your jaw muscles. Muscles are required to bring your teeth together. If bringing your teeth together requires certain muscles to overwork, then they will soon become fatigued and what they will begin to do is illicit help from other groups of muscles. As muscle groups begin to fatigue, we start to see a distortion in the way that the head and the neck relate, and a change in the posture. Instead of an upright posture, the head drifts forward, and the shoulders and hips begin to tilt.
So how can a dentist help?
This is dental CSI. It’s like looking at a crime scene. If your bite is unbalanced, then bringing your teeth together will create strain. It’s like walking with two different shoes. Imagine you had one high heel and one beach sandal, and you walked around like that for the whole day. Your knees, your hips and your back would be sore. Well, your bite is way more sensitive to imbalance. Even a filling that’s a few microns too large can create the imbalance of jaw muscles. If a dentist can make your teeth mash where the jaw muscles are relaxed and the jaw joint is properly positioned, then they can bring balance and support to the whole body.
So, how we treat the problem and end the pain and discomfort is to restore balance. First we need to calm down the muscles that are fatigued from having to constantly fight to adjust to a bad bite. With modern equipment from a company called Myotronics started by Bernard Jenkinson in the 1960s, dentists can measure the action of the jaw and the balance of the jaw muscles as well as relax the jaw muscles using a special machine called an ULF TENS, or an ultra-low frequency transcutaneous electro neural stimulation that helps give the jaw muscles an electronic massage.
The ULF TENS pulses nerves that supply stimulation to the jaw and neck muscles. With a low pulse every 1.5 seconds, the muscles are contracted and then relaxed. And over a period of an hour, they are able to shift to their normal resting length. It is kind of like a massage relieving a muscle cramp. Now, with relaxed and healthy muscles, the dentist can capture the relationship between the upper and lower jaws with some impression material. Once captured, the relaxed and healthy bite position is made possible for the patient with the construction of a neural muscular anatomical orthotic that sits on the lower teeth.
Now when the patient bites together, the muscles are no longer unbalanced or over closed, but functioning in the perfectly healthy position. This healthy position of the new bite supports the head and neck relationship. The shoulder and back muscles are less strained, the neural feedback to the brain from the head and neck muscles are calmed, and the body responds quickly by calming other body systems. Many of which have a global effect on the person’s tension and health.
So why should your treat your TMD?
Well, you might help decrease the pain that comes from muscle tension and help eliminate headaches, neck aches and backaches. You might improve the function of your jaw joints and eliminate the clicking and clacking of your jaw joints or eliminate some of the ringing in your ears or dizziness. You can restore facial height and give yourself a more youthful look. You can improve your posture. You can even give yourself a better sleep and more energy. Basically, you’ll bring more balance back to your life.
If you are tired of dealing with chronic pain and you’re ready to deal with your TMD once and for all, call Castle Rock Family Dental at 303-688-2229.