Jaw problems: It’s all in your head?

Well it is, literally and figuratively. Do you complain of neck pain or tension, strange ear symptoms such as buzzing or a plugged feeling? How about migraines or just a your “average” headache? Occasional or intense vertigo? Sensitive teeth? Missing back teeth or a click/pop when opening or closing your jaw?These are just a few of the many problems created when the moveable jaw (lower) attempts to fit together with the upper jaw. Think of a door that doesn’t easily close — you may have to slam the door to close it, or it may rub as it closes, it may stick when opening or not close all the way. These basic ideas provide a concept of how the alignment of the jaw causes us grief. As we continue to use the door the areas of rubbing wear away, the hinges begin to creak and become loose. Other areas begin to rub and wear. To fix it we may realign the door, or maybe we have to completely reset the door in the wall because it was crooked to begin with. These concepts attempt to illustrate the idea of balance. Balance must occur between muscles of the head, neck and face, the jaw joint and teeth. Without harmony one or all parts of the system breakdown. The breakdown shows itself in the various signs and symptoms listed. • migraines/headaches • ear pain/pressure/ringing• shoulder/back/neck tension or pain• eye/sinus pain• Clenching or grinding• facial tiredness• popping/clenching of jaw• jaw deviations when open/close• tingling/numb fingers• vertigo/dizzy• jaw sticking/locking• limited openingIn addition, very sensitive measuring equipment is used to help understand what’s happening underneath the skin and aid in the diagnosis of the problem. Without measuring equipment the success of night guards or splints is highly variable and questionable, not to mention they often end up on the floor or nightstand. Conversely a properly balanced orthotic is very comfortable not to mention the gradual resolution of many of the above mentioned problems. This condition has been classically termed TMJ or temporomandibular joint dysfunction. A much more progressive and appropriate term now used is craniocervical-mandibular disorder. • Fellowship trained in neuromuscular dentistry and accredited member of International College of Craniomandibular Orthopedics, Dr. Mannikko was a TMJ sufferer himself.


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