Foot in the mouth syndrome? Well…your foot doesn’t exactly rest in your mouth, but your mouth does relate to the rest of your body. Learn why a jaw problem is a whole-body problem.
Alice, age 43, came in for a new patient exam. As I talked to Alice she related that she was having knee and calf pain walking up and down stairs. Upon examination, it became obvious that she had a TMD problem. I
temporarily repositioned her lower jaw into a more proper relationship with her upper jaw and told her to walk up and down a flight of stairs. Alice came back and reported that she had hardly any pain as she went up and down a full flight of stairs. Yes, sometimes it can happen that fast!
In my last two newsletters (Sleep Disordered Breathing – Uncovering Health Issues in Your Child and Sleep Breathing Disorders in Adults – Do You Suffer From Lack of Oxygen), I have discussed how abnormal jaw development or relationships may cause a Sleep Disordered Breathing problem. This happens when the tongue is trapped and is too big for one’s mouth, forcing the tongue back into the airway. Not everyone with abnormal jaw development or relationship has a SDB problem. However, almost 100% have a temporomandibular joint problem. The temporomandibular joint is the most used joint in the body and is where the head of the lower jaw (condyle) sits in a depression in the temporal bone of the skull.
What can be the effects of a temporomandibular joint problem? One may have some clicking of the jaw joint in front of the ear, and seemingly not much else or the effects can be much more pervasive. Try this:
Put your pinky fingers in your ears with the pads of your fingers pressing slightly forward and open and close. Do you notice any clicking or sounds or even tenderness as you do this?
Like your knee joint, to prevent bone rubbing against bone, there is cartilage between the condyle of the lower jaw and the temporal bone. When the lower jaw is not in its proper position, it will “catch” on the cartilage as one opens or closes, causing clicking or noises. This is a sign of something amiss.
If you note a problem Try This: Slide your lower jaw forward so that your front teeth are edge to edge, and now open and close with your pinky fingers in your ears (as above). See if this ameliorates the problem. If it does, this is an indication that your lower jaw is being forced back. Ultimately this is a result of an upper jaw (maxilla) problem.
Why is a maxilla problem a whole-body problem?
Your upper jaw (maxilla) is connected to the face and skull. When the maxilla is not properly developed or positioned, you have a TMD problem causing a cascade of misalignment which affects the entire skull and spine.
Your skull is comprised of eight cranial bones, which are connected to each other by cranial sutures. These cranial sutures are not solidly joined together, thereby allowing some movement. In fact, every time you breathe in and out there is movement at these points of union.
This slight movement of the cranial bones allows a cranial-sacral therapist to make adjustments your skull.
A critical bone which is affected by the maxilla is the sphenoid bone. The sphenoid bone attaches to the occiput bone (the bone in the back of your head), this suture being called the sphenobasilar joint. This is recognized by many as the keystone joint affecting the pituitary, nervous system and the blood flow to and from the brain. This is an important “target” in craniosacral treatment.When things aren’t right with your skull the other parts of your body are also not right.
Your entire system can be affected and can lead to scoliosis and knee, ankle and foot problems. Many muscle groups can be painfully affected causing headaches, neck aches, and shoulder aches. The entire nervous system is stressed. “I have had craniosacral and chiropractic treatments many times, and it never holds.” This is a statement I often hear. The adjustments don’t hold because the REAL “keystone,” – the maxilla- is a problem. The maxilla may be constricted or it may not be in proper relationship to the cranium thereby starting a cascade that affects the sphenoid and which leads to a domino effect as described above.
How do I know if this is my problem?
A thorough exam by a knowledgeable dentist is critical. The exam can determine if you have a TMJ problem and what other symptoms might be related. If there is a problem then a cephalometric x-ray (this type of x-ray is a craniofacial image that allows an analysis of the dental and skeletal relationship) is necessary so that an evaluation of the position of the maxilla to the cranium can be evaluated. Models of the mouth are also useful to help determine if your jaws are too narrow.
Some things to be aware of that often indicate a TMJ problem.
1. Grinding of the teeth
2. Clenching of the teeth
3. Migraine headaches
4. Neck and backaches
5. Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB) problems
6. Erosion of the teeth at the gum line
7. Wear of the anterior teeth
8. Lower front teeth higher than the back teeth
9. Loose teeth
10. Anterior open bite
11. Painful jaw joints and/or restricted opening of the mouth
12. Past orthodontic care especially if permanent teeth have been removed
Jay, age 36, came in because he had terrible head and neck aches. The pain traveled down into the muscles of his forearms, and he was desperate. His wife also complained of his snoring. Upon examination, I noted that there was a lot of crowding of the teeth, a sure sign that there may be a TMD problem as well as a sleep breathing disorder. The 3D oral scan indeed indicated a restricted airway. Temporarily repositioning his lower jaw, he noticed instantaneous relaxation of his jaw and neck muscles and diminished pain.
Generally, what can be done in these types of situations?
Sometimes a “Band-Aid” can be used. This is a removable appliance that will reposition the lower jaw. Sometimes just wearing this at night will be enough to keep the symptoms below a person’s threshold. For some people, this is all they want. However, this will not relieve the stress that the abnormal bite is causing 24/7 and its long-term effects. The best solution is orthopedic repositioning of the jaws to create a 24/7 harmonious jaw relationship that has a positive impact on one’s health.
© 2017, Mark A. Breiner, DDS
The information presented is for educational purposes only. Please consult a qualified dentist or health practitioner for diagnosis and treatment.