TMJ Causes

Imbalanced Bites, Airway Issues, and More

Genetics

Your genetic makeup can affect your head and neck function in a number of manners. It can be important in your response to allergens in the environment. It can allow for structural imbalance of hard and soft tissues. It can alter your response to noxious stimuli you encounter. It can alter your response to strain by altering the sense of having pain or not having pain.

Genetic potential is often just that. A potential. Factors that affect the expression of your genetic potential are called “EPI-Genetic” factors. ‘EPI’ means ‘above’ and these are factors that alter the growth of our body, no matter what the genetic potential was. Jaw growth is a great example of epi-genetic growth factors. If a child breathes through their nose and their teeth are together and their tongue sits in the roof of the mouth, their facial growth is more in line with their genetic potential. If there is a genetic sensitivity to allergens in the child’s environment, the epi-genetic factors of restricted nasal breathing will alter facial growth away from ideal.

This can go unnoticed for a significant period of time, leading many sufferers of TMJ disorders to experience headaches, dizziness, and other symptoms without understanding the root cause. Sometimes an early corrective device can help in this situation, allowing the child to develop more to the ideal potential.

Airway Issues

Improper or insufficient jaw development is often a direct consequence of nasal breathing vs. mouth breathing. Click here to learn more.

If you have less than ideal upper and lower jaw growth, the soft tissues of the mouth, the soft palate, the Tonsillar pillars, and the tongue have the potential to create obstructive or restrictive airflow to your lungs both during the day and at night.

A daytime airway issue can easily be dealt with by moving the head and neck forward. This is called a Forward Head Position (FHP). An FHP helps open the spaces behind the tongue so you can breathe easier. You do not have to think of this. Your body does this automatically. The problem with a FHP is that heads are heavy (8-16 pounds). Holding your head forward off of your shoulders strains the neck vertebrae, alters tooth contact, strains muscles and ligaments of the head, neck and lower jaw, alters shoulder position and can cause hip rotation, even knee and foot rotations.

A nighttime airway issue can cause sleep disturbance issue like snoring, sleep apnea and UARS, a restrictive airflow pattern that stresses the body as you sleep. The body suffers stress and strain in different ways than during the day.

Airway Issues

Improper or insufficient jaw development is often a direct consequence of nasal breathing vs. mouth breathing. Click here to learn more.

If you have less than ideal upper and lower jaw growth, the soft tissues of the mouth, the soft palate, the Tonsillar pillars, and the tongue have the potential to create obstructive or restrictive airflow to your lungs both during the day and at night.

A daytime airway issue can easily be dealt with by moving the head and neck forward. This is called a Forward Head Position (FHP). An FHP helps open the spaces behind the tongue so you can breathe easier. You do not have to think of this. Your body does this automatically. The problem with a FHP is that heads are heavy (8-16 pounds). Holding your head forward off of your shoulders strains the neck vertebrae, alters tooth contact, strains muscles and ligaments of the head, neck and lower jaw, alters shoulder position and can cause hip rotation, even knee and foot rotations.

A nighttime airway issue can cause sleep disturbance issue like snoring, sleep apnea and UARS, a restrictive airflow pattern that stresses the body as you sleep. The body suffers stress and strain in different ways than during the day.

Imbalanced Bite (Malocclusion)

One of the most common causes of TMJ disorders is an imbalanced bite or malocclusion. If the bite is unbalanced in its function, the head and neck structures are chronically strained. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves of the head and neck.

While noticeable TMJ related signs and symptoms might occur following injuries or accidents, an unbalanced bite can be a long-term co-factor. The problem with assessing a direct cause to TMJD symptoms is that dental malocclusions are endemic in the modern world. Most people who have a malocclusion can live without pain or problems and it is not till an injury occurs that a painful symptoms arises.

The strain of a malocclusion is not limited to teeth. Since our body is an interconnected, interactive and interdependent machine, the strain in the body from a malocclusion can be far reaching and often cause problems far from the upper and lower teeth. It takes a thorough examination to see how a once thought simple malocclusion or imbalance is affecting body structures in the neck, back, hips, knees, and feet. And visa versa. How our body is interconnected is complex and allows us to function without being perfectly aligned. But chronic strain and stress, including the way we bite, can affect our overall health

Injury/Trauma

The signs and symptoms of a TMJ disorder can be so mild or slight that you are not aware of them. This can all change with the strain and damage caused by injury or trauma. It is often seen as the first time someone has a problem. Have a motor vehicle accident (MVA) and you may suddenly have problems that were never there or never as severe. This is often caused by the sudden strain related to a MVA.
The same is common with head injuries. Often the head and neck become strained and this strain elicits symptoms associated with TMJ Disorders.

Symptoms include headaches, migraines, neck pain, pain behind the eyes, forehead pain, locking jaws, sore jaw joints, jaw joint sounds, sensitive teeth, limited head and neck and jaw function, tremors, inability to sleep or stay asleep, back pain, hip pain and many other conditions.

The problem is often an injury compromises a muscle group in the head and/or neck and the cascade of accommodation, parafunction and dysfunction occurs. This is a very complicated scenario with many possible outcomes post-injury.

Injury/Trauma

The signs and symptoms of a TMJ disorder can be so mild or slight that you are not aware of them. This can all change with the strain and damage caused by injury or trauma. It is often seen as the first time someone has a problem. Have a motor vehicle accident (MVA) and you may suddenly have problems that were never there or never as severe. This is often caused by the sudden strain related to a MVA.
The same is common with head injuries. Often the head and neck become strained and this strain elicits symptoms associated with TMJ Disorders.

Symptoms include headaches, migraines, neck pain, pain behind the eyes, forehead pain, locking jaws, sore jaw joints, jaw joint sounds, sensitive teeth, limited head and neck and jaw function, tremors, inability to sleep or stay asleep, back pain, hip pain and many other conditions.

The problem is often an injury compromises a muscle group in the head and/or neck and the cascade of accommodation, parafunction and dysfunction occurs. This is a very complicated scenario with many possible outcomes post-injury.

Imbalanced Dentistry

Sometimes a person may have a standard dental procedure to repair a tooth or restoration. However, the sensitivity of the mouth, teeth, jaw muscles to an even slight misalignment of the way teeth touch can cause or create TMJ issues. This type of problem can be particularly frustrating as it often is nearly impossible to isolate without the use of specific measuring equipment such as the Tscan.

The Tscan is a tool used to measure the force, position and timing of tooth contacts. It can be valuable information if a new crown or filling is affecting the patient’s comfort. Since the way we bite is sensitive to 20-30 microns (the size of dust motes in a sunbeam) the occlusal forces of our bite can be difficult to balance. As technology catches up to the physiology of our body, it becomes easier to help patients who have bite imbalance issues.

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