Written by Dr. Matthew Alvord DC, DPhCS
TMJ Syndrome: “Temporal Mandibular Joint Syndrome.” Quite a mouthful for a jaw condition, isn’t it? Everyone has a TMJ on either side of their jaw, because it is a normal joint in all of us. The syndrome part comes in when the TMJ is not functioning properly. This can produce things such as jaw pain, headaches, abnormal wear of your teeth and even less obvious conditions like sleeping problems. Therapies may or may not be needed to treat this condition, but what people don’t know, including dentists and even TMJ specialists, is how important your neck function is to your jaw function.
So many functions of the body can be better understood by learning how these structures develop in the first place. After two cells come together at conception and the nervous system becomes the very first tissue to form in your body, your jaw descended from your head and neck. And since the nervous system is involved from the very beginning, your jaw depends on proper nerve supply for proper function.
Your jaw works like a drawbridge, opening and closing on hinges with the coordination of muscles surrounding your entire face and neck. These muscles are controlled by nerves coming from your head and spine, as well as the alignment of all the attached bones. Your jaw itself can misalign, but what many don’t realize is that your neck alignment plays a huge role in jaw alignment and function. Often times, your jaw could have all the symptoms but your misaligned neck may good enough that you would never think to go to a chiropractor to have spine checked as well as your jaw.
When the bones of your neck misalign and interfere with nerve function, which they often do, it causes the muscles of your jaw to work abnormally. This can cause your jaw to open and close abnormally, changing the feeling of your jaw directly. These neck misalignments are called spinal subluxations and can only be checked by a chiropractor. Even if you are seeing a TMJ specialist, they are not trained to analyze the spine for this connection to your jaw problem. Many people are getting treated for what seems like a difficult jaw problem with ongoing jaw therapies, sometimes over years, and yet the very thing that could be complicating or even causing the problem isn’t even in the jaw. And because the neck often feels fine, no one knows to check the spine.
Jaw problems can begin any number of ways. Sometimes with a direct blow to the jaw, sometimes with a general injury to the upper body and sometimes jaw symptoms come on with no history of injury at all! Regardless of how your jaw problem started, it is very important to get your spine checked by a chiropractor to make sure your condition is not complicated, or caused altogether, by this vital connection. Otherwise, you could end up on an endless road of therapies that may lead to nowhere because they are only treating the effects of your jaw problem. Many people with a jaw condition will get unnecessary dental work and surgery in a desperate attempt to feel better. Many therapies are based on the changes seen as just effects of the real problem, effects from somewhere else, often the neck and spine. Don’t take the chance of having spinal subluxations run off at the mouth! See a chiropractor today.