The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can be considered the most important joint in the body. In the 1950’s, two neurologists, Penfield and Rasmussen, stated that almost half of the motor and sensory nerves in the brain relate to the dental area. With this much attention being devoted to the dental area, you can be sure the TMJ has a large effect on overall body function.
Symptoms of TMJ dysfunction typically include the following: jaw pain, clicking or popping in the joint, decreased mouth opening, headaches, neck pain, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and vertigo or dizziness. However, because of its large representation in the brain, I check it in on almost all my patients. Other than musculoskeletal complaints, endocrine gland imbalances can also result. This is because the “master” endocrine glands, the pituitary, hypothalamus, and pineal reside in the skull. And because structure determines function, these glands can dysfunction (and affect other glands they control) if the cranium is distressed due to muscular imbalances in the TMJ. Symptoms can vary and include but are not limited to: infertility, insomnia, hypo/hyperthyroidism, adrenal stress syndrome, PMS, increased or decreased appetite, digestive disturbances, etc..
Causes of TMJ dysfunction include muscular imbalances in the head and neck, faulty posture, malocclusion (irregular contact of the upper and lower teeth), grinding or clenching the teeth, chewing on only one side, pelvic imbalances, and even over-pronation in the feet.
Treatment of the TMJ generally includes leveling the head on the neck through chiropractic adjustments to the cervical spine, in addition to balancing the muscles of the neck and jaw. However, as stated above, the pelvis and feet can play a role in TMJ function as well.
The TMJ usually becomes dysfunctional because of other areas of the body that affect it; unless there has been direct trauma to it, as in boxing or a head injury. Therefore, I rarely go straight to the TMJ. But it is certainly worth checking no matter what the patient suffers from.
Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology