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TMJ: The Great American Headache

October, 2003
Can you imagine having such dizziness, head and chest pain that you have to go to the emergency room? Not once - but on a regular basis because the only relief you were given was an injection to knock you out? Imagine the despair when doctor after doctor told you that there was nothing they could find wrong. 
Just by looking at her, I knew what the solution was...
 
Desperate, Josephine came to me with this problem. After taking her history, I knew just by looking at her what the solution was. Looking at her profile, Josephine had a retruded chin. Her lower jaw was far behind her upper jaw. This is often a recipe for disaster. With the lower jaw "forced backward" the cartilage that acts as a cushion between where the lower jaw meets the skull can become dislocated. This prevents being able to open widely, and the jaw can get stuck in an open or closed position. Also, the muscles that help to move the lower jaw never have a chance to relax, putting them into chronic spasm. This will often lead to pain in the head and face. The joint at which the lower jaw meets the skull is right in front of the ear, frequently leading to noises in the ears or to various degrees of vertigo. The area is also rich in nerves and blood vessels, again, leading to different types of symptoms. 

Upon examining Josephine, I found not only was her lower jaw being forced too far back (about 10 mm), but it was also off to one side by about 5mm. Five or ten millimeters may not seem like a lot, but in the mouth, it is equivalent to a wide river.

Testing a "new bite" for Josephine

 
I placed Josephine's lower jaw into what I thought would be her ideal position. This means I moved her jaw forward about 10 mm and to one side. In this position, there was now space between her back teeth. Next I squirted some liquid acrylic between her back teeth and let it get hard. I then took the "acrylic" bite registration out of her mouth, and had her stand up. Using Applied Kinesiology (muscle testing), I tested Josephine's arm (deltoid) muscle, and found it strong. Having her close her teeth together, I placed a finger in front of her ear, on her jaw joint. Again testing her arm muscle, it was now weak. This indicates a problem in the jaw joint (TMJ - temporomandibular joint). I then placed the acrylic bite registration in her mouth and had her close into her "new bite". Again, testing her jaw joint with my finger in front of her ear - her arm muscle remained strong. This gives an indication that this new bite position is the right position for her.

Next, I performed EAV (Electroacupuncture) screening on the acupuncture points of Josephine's hands and feet. EAV is a method of stress testing acupuncture points. While doing this, I had Josephine keep her teeth apart. She had only a few points that had an imbalance. I then told her to keep her teeth together, and retested the points. Now all points tested abnormal, demonstrating how much stress her bite was placing on her system.
 
"Oh, this feels so much better!"
 
Placing the acrylic bite in her mouth, I had her clench and then rechecked the acupuncture points; all but a few were normal. This helped confirm that placing her jaw into this new position would yield positive results. As Josephine sat there, she put her hands on her face and said, "Oh, this feels so much better." Impressions of her mouth were taken and an appliance was made to fit over her lower back teeth, thus allowing a more harmonious jaw relationship. 
 
No more head pain, no more dizziness, no more chest pains ....
 
Seeing Josephine a few weeks after seating her appliance, she looked like a new person, her eyes were bright, and her spirits high. No more dizziness, no more head pain, and no more chest pains and irregular heart beats. Who would think that a bad bite could cause so much trouble?

Note, Josephine's jaw discrepancy was quite severe although, unfortunately, not uncommon. However, even much smaller discrepancies can cause severe problems. 
 


 
Take a TMJ Self Test Now

Answer the following questions:

- Do you get frequent headaches or facial pain?
- Do you get frequent neck aches or shoulder aches?
- Do you find yourself clenching your teeth during the day?
- Do you grind your teeth at night?
- Do you wake up with your teeth clenched?
- If you answered "yes" to any of the above, especially 2 or more, there is a good chance you may have TMD (temporomandibular dysfunction)

Try the following self assessment for TMJ:

- Put the pad of one finger (use the index finger) in each ear and with the pad facing forward toward your nose, press your fingers forward - is it tender? If it is this can indicate inflammation in the temporomandibular joint.

- With your fingers still in your ears, open and close - do you feel or hear any popping or clicking? Popping or clicking can indicate problems with the cartilage that is in the joint space.

- Press a finger just slightly in front of the opening of your ears - do you feel tenderness? A yes response again could indicate inflammation within the joint.

- With your index, middle and ring finger held together, open your mouth and see if you can place them vertically between your upper and lower front teeth? If you cannot, this is often a sign of TMJ problems.


 
If I have a TMD problem, how is it corrected?

Answer:

Often TMJ problems can be alleviated by reshaping the surfaces of the teeth. By allowing the teeth to hit more evenly and without interferences the muscles are allowed to relax and symptoms quickly disappear. If the symptoms are due to a structural problem then orthodontics is often the best method of treatment. Unfortunately, many TMJ problems occur after having orthodontics, especially if permanent teeth are extracted. Retreatment with functional orthodontics is often necessary. 

Sometimes a night guard will alleviate the symptoms or a repositioning appliance, as discussed in the article above, will be beneficial. However, these are usually more diagnostic and further treatment is necessary.

 
   
The information presented is for educational purposes only. You should consult a qualified health practitioner for diagnosis and treatment.