Do you suffer from unexplained headaches, back aches or neck pain? Do you grind your teeth, or hear a clicking or popping sound when you speak, chew or open and close your mouth? Believe it or not, these are all signs of a condition called temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ disorder, and even if your joint itself doesn’t hurt, you could still be affected.
According to the National Institutes of Health, temporomandibular joint disorder affects an estimated 10 million Americans and is more prevalent in women than men. But many of those cases go undiagnosed because many TMJ disorder sufferers don’t even realize there’s anything wrong! If you experience any of the following symptoms but don’t know why, speak to Dr. George about being evaluated for TMJ disorder. It could solve the mystery of unexplained pain and help you start living pain-free again.
A recent NIH study has linked TMJ disorders to migraine headaches. In fact, the NIH study claims that people who suffer from migraines are three times more likely to have TMJ disorder than those who don’t get migraines, and it may even be possible that TMJ disorder can cause migraines and other headaches too. If you get frequent migraines or other unexplained headaches, you could be suffering from TMJ disorder.
Popping and Clicking
It may sound like the latest dance craze, but popping and clicking is no fun when it comes to your jaw. If you’ve ever noticed a faint pop or click when you open and close your mouth, speak or chew, you could have TMJ disorder. Though the jaw can click or pop for a completely normal reason called subluxation (when the lower jawbone passes over a ridge in the upper jawbone while chewing or yawning), there are other more concerning and painful reasons for those clicks and pops, too, namely when a disc in your temporomandibular joint that connects your jaw to the temporal bones in your skull gets displaced. This can occur when you open and close your mouth, and it can be painful, too, because every time you open or close your mouth, you are stretching the ligaments in that disc, radiating pain.
Neck, Shoulder or Back Pain
Unexplained neck or shoulder pain can be very tricky to stop, because it can be difficult to figure out just where it’s coming from. It may sound odd to even suggest that neck or shoulder pain is coming from your jaw, but the science is there. You see, your jaw muscles run from one ear to the other, all the while interacting with your neck muscles as they work. In turn, your neck muscles hold your spine in its proper place. If your jaw muscles become strained due to TMJ disorder, this pain can easily radiate throughout your neck and shoulders, and even down your back and arms!
Do you find yourself asking anyone in earshot if they hear that ringing, hissing, buzzing or roaring – but they don’t hear a thing? There’s a good chance you could have a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus affects approximately one in 10 adults each year and can have many causes, which is another reason it is so difficult to link specifically to TMJ disorder.
What is known about tinnitus is that it occurs when nerve cells that process sound fall out of balance, creating an illusion of sound that does not exist. Thankfully many cases of tinnitus are not painful, but the psychological toll it can take on a sufferer can often be debilitating. It is believed that TMJ disorder can trigger tinnitus because of the temporomandibular joint’s proximity to the ear nerves. Much like the temporomandibular joint can put strain on the neck and shoulder muscles, it also puts similar strain on the ear nerves, which in turn throws them out of alignment and triggers the ringing, hissing and buzzing commonly associated with tinnitus.
Yes, it’s true! Having TMJ disorder can even alter your posture. That’s because when your body is straining to compensate for bad alignment or pain, it can cause your shoulders to hunch forward or your chin to protrude. On the other hand, it is believed that poor posture can also trigger TMJ disorder, because having your chin or back out of alignment can put undue pressure on your temporomandibular joint, causing it to fall out of alignment.
It’s fascinating to learn just how closely so many of these muscle and nerve systems are related to each other – but it can also make diagnosing conditions like TMJ disorder that much more difficult. If you are experiencing any of the conditions mentioned above with no explanation, please call Dr. George’s office today and schedule a neuromuscular dentistry consultation. Neuromuscular dentistry is recognized as being the best means for treating TMJ disorder and its many side effects.
Dr. George can be reached at 724-220-2347.