So why do so many people suffer from the symptoms of TMJ disorders? Today, research suggests that the most prevalent cause is from airway obstruction originating with infancy and childhood. Primitive cultures, such as those studied by Dr. Weston Price demonstrate that within a generation of being exposed to Western culture, the children of these Primitive cultures develop changes in the formation of their jaws and subsequent malocclusions (bad bites). Hand in hand with these changes are changes in the development of the nose, sinus’s, tongue, back of the throat as well as the muscles that run throughout the head and neck.
So how does that affect us in today’s society? Today the vast majority of people have poor bites or a malocclusion of some sort. Most of the time these malocclusions are blamed on heredity but are actually the result of allergies and airway obstruction as a child. There are many signs of a poor bite including, crowded teeth, deep overbites, underbites, bumps of bone on the jawbone next to the tongue, teeth grinding, and so many others. While the majority of people have a poor bite or malocclusion, only about half suffer from painful symptoms and related conditions that are related to their poor bite. The other half are predisposed to future issues and the development of painful symptoms that can be triggered by accidents or trauma, continual teeth grinding, and well meaning dental procedures including orthodontics.
These malocclusions or poor bites that people have today actually had their beginnings before their first tooth erupted. The most prevalent cause of these malocclusions is airway obstruction as an infant. Early on in an infant’s life they are exposed to many things that cause allergies and effect the development of the mouth, jaw, and tongue. Some of the most common food allergies are to cow’s milk, chocolate, cola, and wheat. Air pollution, ingredients in baby formula, cow’s milk, pet dander, just to name a few, all cause mucous to build up in a child’s nose and sinus’. Bacteria are trapped in the mucous and grow in the airway causing the tonsils and adenoids to work overtime fighting infection. As the tonsils and adenoids increase in size and swell it becomes more difficult for the child to breathe through his/her nose. In order to survive and provide the body with enough oxygen to thrive the infant/toddler becomes a mouth breather. A precious sleeping baby, but developing a serious mouth breathing habit.
In order to facilitate effective breathing through an open mouth the natural tongue position must be altered. Instead of being positioned up in the roof of the mouth shaping a wide dental arch, broad roof of the mouth, and floor of the nose, the tongue tends to fall into an abnormal position to allow more air to pass through to the airway. Because the tongue is not in the correct position to support a wide upper arch, the constant unopposed pressure of the cheek muscles squeezes and narrows the developing arch. When the teeth finally erupt into this narrowed arch there is not enough room and crowded teeth are the result. If the arches are narrow, there may not be enough room for the tongue between the upper and lower teeth causing the tongue to lie on top of the back bottom teeth keeping them from erupting completely. The tongue’s prevention of the lower back teeth from erupting completely results in an overbite as well as forcing the jaw backwards compressing the temporomandiblar joints (TMJ).
It is important to note that the roof of the mouth is also the floor of the nose and nasal passages. As a narrow raised roof of the mouth (palate) develops it also encroaches into and decreases the size of the nasal passages. As the floor of the nasal passages is pushed upwards it also compromises a person’s ability to breathe through their nose making their dependence on mouth breathing more severe.
The majority of adults who suffer from TMJ pain and the associated symptoms such as headaches, migraines, vertigo, ear congestion, and tinnitus, show the tell tale signs of having airway obstruction and possibly a breathing disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea. The resulting narrow upper and lower arch formation leads to a lack of forward growth and development of the upper jaw and/or retrusion of the lower jaw. If the lower mandible is retruded into the tmj it can compress the joint along with the associated structures and muscles in the area. Having the mandible compressed into the tmj can cause the joint’s disc to “pop on and off” the head of the tmj condyle. This popping on and off of the disc creates the clicking and popping sounds from the joint that so many people have. Each time the joint makes a noise additional trauma is occurring to the joint.
Having compressed jaw joints and a retruded mandible puts a great deal of strain on the muscles of the head and neck. Janet Travell, a prominent physician and researcher, determined that 90%of pain is muscular in nature. Having jaw muscles chronically contracted supporting a retruded mandible and compressed joint lead to muscles in spasm causing migraines, headaches, ear pain and many other associated symptoms. Forward Head Posture (FHP) can also develop as a result of a retruded mandible. It is easier to bring your back teeth together with a forward head posture than when standing in a military style posture with the ears centered over the shoulders. The average head weighs about 12 lbs. Imagine the strain on the neck and shoulder muscles having a 12 lb bowling ball suspended in front of the spine instead of supported directly over the spine. FHP muscle strain can be quite painful to the muscles of the neck and shoulder. The results of FHP can be seen not just in the cervical vertebrae but throughout the entire spine.
TMJ dysfunction symptoms present in many forms such as migraines, headaches, vertigo, ear congestion, as well as neck and shoulder pain. Each of these symptoms can be traced back to the relationship between the bones of the cranial facial complex (bones of the head and face) and the muscles surrounding the skull. The development and growth of the head is influenced by many things in infancy and childhood. A child can go days without food and water but only minutes without oxygen. A child’s dependence on oxygen encourages the body to develop and grow while adapting to an allergy rich environment to insure an abundant supply of essential oxygen. Unfortunately the ability of our bodies to adapt can lead to a variety of TMJ symptoms as a teenager or adult. Fortunately the development of Physiologic Neuromuscular Dentistry techniques can alleviate a lifetime of these TMJ symptoms.
Find out how our very own Dr. Joseph J. Henry, DDS can help you by calling (714) 385-1672 or completing the form on this page to arrange your initial consultation. Orange Center for Cosmetic Dentistry serves patients in and around Orange County areas like Anaheim, Fullerton, Orange, and more.