Your headaches, neck pain or dizziness may be the result of a misaligned bite.
By Dr. Jeffrey Haddad
Sponsored by Doolin Haddad Advanced Dentistry
I don’t have jaw pain or TMJ popping, so how can I have a TMJ disorder?
Most patients, and even many doctors, are unaware a misaligned or unstable bite can adversely affect the head and neck. It is widely misunderstood what symptoms fall under a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), which can be anything from headaches and migraines to neck pain, and even many ear symptoms like tinnitus or vertigo. Unfortunately, those suffering often never identify the root cause of their symptoms. The word “joint” often misleads patients, physicians and even dentists to believe popping or pain in the temporomandibular joint needs to be present for a person to be considered a TMJ patient. They seek help from their primary care physician, ENT physician or chiropractor for the hope of relief — when in reality, they’re suffering from an undiagnosed TMJ disorder and need a dentist.
Defining a TMJ Disorder
Most of my TMJ patients didn’t have noise in their joints, discomfort in their jaws and had an extremely healthy dentition. Yet they suffered daily from migraines, muscular tension headaches, ear congestion, upper neck pain, and ringing in the ears or vertigo. The absence of jaw pain or discomfort does not mean a jaw issue isn’t causing other symptoms. Therefore, I describe these patients without using the phrase “TMJ disorder” and more appropriately use “craniofacial pain disorder.”
Common Symptoms of a TMJ disorder (Craniofacial Pain Disorder)
- Ear pain
- Jaw pain (with or without joint sounds)
- Neck pain
- Subjective hearing loss
- Ear congestion or blockage
- Tinnitus (ear ringing)
- Vertigo (dizziness)
- Sinus pressure or pain
How do we identify these patients?
There are three things that determine your bite: teeth, facial muscles and temporomandibular joints. The teeth dominate the system; so wherever your teeth are, your TMJs and facial muscles must accommodate and often do so at a price — like poor jaw position and muscular tension. It is accepted in dentistry that 90 percent of all TMJ symptoms are muscular in origin. Therefore, we must take the facial musculature into consideration when treating TMJ patients, regardless of joint clicking or popping.
Determining the proper jaw position — where do you begin?
Muscles of the face and neck are programmed to control head and lower jaw posture to accommodate a person’s bite, even if that bite is less than ideal. So deprogramming muscle memory, increasing blood flow to muscles and restoring muscle health is essential in determining a proper jaw posture. With computerized technology and muscle relaxation we make an appliance, called an orthotic, that fits over your lower teeth. It is comfortable and hardly noticeable in the mouth, yet provides support for a person’s jaw and relieves muscular tension.
Relieving Your Symptoms
Orthotic therapy lasts four to six months with several adjustments that use muscle relaxation, computerized jaw tracking and muscular monitoring. Most patients start feeling relief within two to four weeks. After resolving symptoms to the patient’s satisfaction, the patient has completed therapeutic treatment. The patient is then given the opportunity to either continue with an orthotic on a limited basis, a permanent orthodontic or a restorative change in their bite. There are many people suffering with daily head and neck pain and have no idea it is caused by a misaligned bite. Fortunately, we have ways to identify the origin of their symptoms, and if it is a TMJ disorder, we can get people back to living life without pain.
Doolin Haddad Advanced Dentistry
433 W. University Drive, Rochester