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The Link Between the Neck and the Jaw

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is a difficult condition to deal with. It is the most common non-dental cause of orofacial pain. It is characterized by a change to the joint of the jaw bone, which effects the chewing muscles involved and the person’s bite. TMD is a condition that causes a number of problems such as headache, neck pain, face ache, and ear ache. This condition affects more than 10 million people in the United States and is more common in women than men. Besides suffering from neck pain and jaw pain, people commonly report stiffness, popping, clicking, or locking of the jaw. This can make activities such as eating, singing, or talking difficult. [1]

The TMJ connects the jaw to the rest of your head. It’s purpose is to help guide the jaw, so that the bottom teeth are in alignment with the top teeth resulting in an even bite. When the misalignment of the TMJ occurs, the jaw muscles preform differently which causes the the muscles of the head and neck perform differently as well. If this happens, it will effect the person’s bite and possibly lead to an early break down of the joint.

How does the neck play into TMD?

The TMJ might not be the root cause for the disorder and research suggests that the structure of the head and neck plays a factor.  Evidence suggests that when there is an increase in cervical spine disorders it perpetuates factors for TMD. A cervical spine disorder being caused my repetitive motions and postural alterations of the head and neck. Another study showed that alterations in the TMJ can shift the vertebrae in the neck, especially the Atlas bone. This demonstrates their close relationship and when one of these structures shifts it can cause the others to shift as well. When this happens it puts abnormal stress on these structures where they’re connected effecting their proper function. That’s why it’s not too uncommon for a person to develop TMD after a traumatic event such as whiplash from a car accident.

The severity of TMD can vary from person to person. Some will find their TMD to be just an annoying click while others may feel a severe amount of pain and extremely limited ability to open or close their jaw. Patients who suffer with severe TMD are usually faced with the prospect of splints or surgery to fix their problem.

While some types of TMD may require surgery, many cases respond well to a structural approach to chiropractic using the NUCCA protocol. A gentle correction of the top vertebrae may be enough to decrease the jaw, neck, and headache pain as well as encourage some relaxation of the jaw muscles. When done in conjunction with a specialist in neuromuscular dentistry, many patients can experience a tremendous amount of relief.

If you are looking for conservative options to help address TMD, a Complimentary Consultation with our office can help you see if you a good candidate for this type of treatment.

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