TMJ 101 I'm in pain. You aren't sure when it started and you aren't sure what's causing it. What you do know is you are living in pain! And you have been for far too long. Another thing you might not know, is you could be living with Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, also known as TMJ or TMD. Can you relate to any of these associated TMJ symptoms: horrible migraine-like headaches dizziness jaw ache clicking in your jaw ringing or plugged ears grinding and clenching of teeth stabbing pain behind yoru eyes sore shoulders tight and sore neck muscles facial pain tingling or numbness in your arms, hands or fingers problems with your posture If any of this rings true, you may be a victim of TMD and the good news is, it can be treated by TMJ dentist, Dr. Khullar, with what's called neuromuscular dentistry. Why do I hurt? Your TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) is the jaw joint, in front of your ears, where the lower jaw connects to the skull. When your TMJ becomes misaligned or is not working properly, the lower and upper teeth meet incorrectly in what is called a “bad bite”. As a result of this bad bite, the muscles of your neck, head and jaws work extra-hard to do the job they were meant to do which means, even at rest, stress is put on them because of the misaligned joint. Inflammation starts to builds up over time. This inflammation puts pressure on the nerves leading to your neck, head, shoulders and back, resulting in pain in whatever area the nerve branch is running to. Your over-worked muscles as a result from an unbalanced bite result in pain that will materialize in the form of migraines, headaches, ear-aches, muscles tenderness, facial discomfort, a sore jaw and a ton of other symptoms. I'm looking older than I feel. When it comes to guessing your age based solely on your face, nothing is more telling than your smile. If you have a "bad bite" on top of it, the wear and tear on your teeth is significantly more pronounced and that dramatically impacts the appearance of your face. A misaligned jaw creates corrosion of your teeth, causing them to chip and look worn. All of a sudden you start to see your lips change shape. Creases and wrinkles form and become deeper on the sides of your mouth and around your nose. Your lower lip will begin to roll out and this brings along the appearance of jowls. In some cases you might start to see areas of gum recession and your bottom front teeth might start to shift and look crooked. My posture is off. A misaligned jaw contributes to a number of physical changes, in addition to the obvious ones that affect your teeth and your face. When you suffer from a "bad bite", the muscle tension and muscle activity is unbalanced and this can work itself down and start to affect your entire posture. It starts with a ‘tug’ on your head, which ‘tugs' at your posture, resulting in a slouching appearance. You look like you aren't standing or sitting straight as there's a slight roundness in your neck, shoulders and back. The domino effect begins cascading down your entire body and can manipulate the positioning of your shoulder and your hips. In a lot of cases its so severe, one shoulder or hip is visibly higher than the other. All of this combines to age you. You face looks haggard and worn, with creases and jowls showing up where you previously had none. Your posture and silhouette come off as slouching and slagging, again, prematurely aging you. All of this because your teeth and jaws don't align the way they are supposed to. My mouth isn't working right. Has this happened to you? You are visiting with friends or meeting with colleagues over a business lunch when you go to order your meal and your jaw cracks so loudly someone comments. When your food arrives, you start to eat when, suddenly, you can't open you mouth. It feels as though your mouth is hinged closed and you are left sitting there, embarrassed and wondering what to do next. If you suffer from TMD, your ability to fully and widely open your mouth might be limited. That's because your jaw muscles become stiff and tender and can begin to spasm, stopping you from fully opening your mouth. In the most likely scenario, the disc located in your jaw gets ‘stuck’ in a position that prevents your jaw joint from properly and adequately functioning. Regardless, a mouth that is restricted in its movement is obviously going to affect you physically, socially, emotionally and let’s not forget being passed up for the next dinner party. So, a dentist can help? YES, a neuromuscular dentist like Dr. Khullar can help! When you are in pain, it can feel as though you are all alone. Family and friends don’t understand and might even doubt the severity of your pain. Please do NOT doubt what YOU feel. Your symptoms are real. You can get back to those days of living pain-free; days filled with laughter and joy instead of irritation and anxiety. Pain and discomfort that can be eliminated by visiting Dentalways. With so many basic, everyday functions requiring a healthy TMJ - chewing, swallowing, breathing, talking, drinking - you owe it to yourself to get checked by Dr. Khullar, if you are experiencing any problems. Cracking, popping, limited movement or overall functionality problems with your jaw are all signs something isn't working right and treatment shouldn't be delayed. If taken care of early on, it can prevent significant problems down the road. It's all connected. When you have a bad bite or a misaligned jaw, it can sometimes affect a specific part of your body. And sometimes, it can affect your entire body. Even a slight imbalance in your TMJ (jaw joints) can leave you suffering from headaches, nausea, dizziness, poor body posture, premature wearing of your teeth, decreased strength and flexibility, compromised breathing airways, muscles soreness and tenderness and many more symptoms. Finding the best position for your jaw is crucial for the rest of your body to work as it should. It all begins with a properly aligned bite and it's all part of what TMJ dentist, Dr. Khullar refers to as the Neuromuscular Sextad. Connecting all the dots When your jaw joint is unbalanced, it manipulates and influences your spine, your bite, your airway, your nerves and your muscles. The basic principles of neuromuscular (TMJ) dentistry, which is what Dr. Khullar practices, state that a “good” bite happens when the muscles of the jaw, face and neck are allowed to be in their most efficient state, which is a restful state. As soon as that happens there's an instant improvement in your posture, your resting muscle activity, your airway and your range of motion, flexibility, strength and balance. You can exert more power, increase your stamina, improve your concentration and mental awareness and overall, feel healthier, more exuberant and alive. Q: What’s the most used joint in your body? A: Wrong. It’s not your knee. It’s not your ankle. It’s your TMJ. Think about that answer for a moment. Think about how much your jaw joint is being engaged. Every time you talk, chew, swallow, sing, yawn – you are using your TMJ. While it's probably the least recognized joint in your body, its certainly one of the most important ones. Breathing, eating, drinking - all of them impossible without healthy and properly functioning jaws. So, when you hear clicking, popping and cracking in your jaw joint, it's one of the most common indicators of TMD. When your jaw joint cracks or clicks, you may experience pain too. In some cases, the cracking is so loud, it is heard by others when you chew or talk. The sound you (and others) hear is caused by a displaced disc located in your jaw. A healthy and normal TMJ is quiet when you chew or talk. Clicking, popping and cracking indicate your jaw joint is unstable, and it's a signal these symptoms should be checked by Dr. Khullar. Negative ripple effect transcends your entire body. AIRWAYSYour tongue is attached to your lower jaw and it act as a pillow. It cushions the jaw and helps it to relax. A bad bite affects the size of your mouth and the new size of your mouth no longer accommodates your tongue. Your tongue can’t sit where it should. If your tongue rests too far back in your mouth, it will block the air getting to your lungs. BITE / TEETHAn unaligned jaw joint will begin to show wear and tear on your teeth and your bite. By moving to where the jaw muscles are more balanced, your teeth are basically ‘in the way’. They then begin to grind down against one another and you end up with shortened teeth, gum recession and/or a collapsed lower third of your face. MUSCLESAn improper bite leads to muscle imbalance. When your teeth are misaligned, they cannot provide enough muscle support in your face required for swallowing and chewing. Your muscles are then forced into a stressed and strained position which means you'll experience discomfort throughout the face, arms, head, back and shoulders. The over-worked muscles can result in muscles soreness and stiffness that will show up in the form of migraines, headaches, earaches, muscles tenderness, facial discomfort, a sore jaw and a multitude of other symptoms. NERVESThe muscles and the nerves in the jaw and face are extremely complex and intricately connected. So it goes to reason, when your bite is unaligned, the nerves and muscles are also affected. This unalignment results in the muscles throughout your face, neck, jaw and shoulders going into spasms. The spasms then pinch the nerves that lead down your arms. The result of all of this? A feeling of numbness and tingling in your fingers, arms and hands. SPINE / POSTUREThere is a close relationship between your bite, the posture of your head and that of your entire body. If you have a bad bite or if your jaws don’t close properly, there's an immediate and direct effect on your head posture, causing neck strain and postural issues. If you are missing teeth, this postural strain becomes an even greater issue. Then, the muscles of your back and your neck – which in effect are your spine and its alignment – are impacted and greatly affected by an unbalanced jaw. Improve your bite, improve your overall health So as you can see, every part and every function of the human body is intimately associated with one another. When one aspect isn’t performing properly, it impacts all the rest. A poorly aligned jaw can cause a number of physical and cosmetic changes to your teeth, your face and your posture. The body depends on all of its parts to interact in unison. And it all starts at the top. Your jaw joint alignment is critical to your overall health and wellness. If you are experiencing problems, TMJ dentist, Dr. Khullar, can help.