Your body’s ability to cope with chronic strain and stress may lessen as you age. Many signs and symptoms of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems or jaw problems may not be felt right away or even painful. You may be unaware of the destruction that is happening with your jaw joints, your teeth, and your spine. However, your bad posture can say a lot of about what’s going to your body.
As you age, your ability to cope with this damage, with this constant stress and strain may be diminished. By then, the outcome of treatment may be compromised.
Jaw problems are not limited to the mouth: Bad posture and other symptoms can be involved
Pain can be a significant indicator, but not the only signal for TMJ dysfunction. Years of poor or bad posture, wearing teeth, damage to jaw joints, neck vertebrae, loss of the bone and gum tissue around the roots of your teeth, are often slow destructive processes without severe pain or other problems in an early stage.
Common signs of TMJ damage are
- Limited ability to open your mouth.
- A simple test:
- How many of your fingers can you get between you upper and lower teeth when you open wide?
- You should be able to get your mouth opened to a width of 3 fingers. If you can only get 2 fingers in your mouth then you are probably starting to have changes to your TMJ structures.
- Clicking on opening or closing. If your jaw joints (they are just in front of your ears) click or pop when they open or close then the structures of the jaw joint are being damage. You may have no pain in your jaw joint but the clicking is similar to a click in a knee joint. Over time there will be irreversible damage.
- Your jaw opens unevenly. If you open your mouth and the lower jaw swings to the left or right, then you have a TMJD problem and one of your TMJ joints is locked and not moving properly. This can rapidly become a more serious problem with permanent locking of one or both TMJ joints.
Try These Posture Tests
Test 1: Front Posture
- Stand in front of a mirror (or have someone ready to take a photo of you standing in front of a wall
- Stand with your feet ‘shoulder width’ apart
- Close your eyes and turn your head left and right as far as you can go, look up then down as far as you can go then look forward and open your eyes. Look in the mirror or have someone take a photo
- Look at the level of your shoulders. Are they even or is one shoulder lower than the other. If one shoulder is lower, even by a little, look how your neck will be canted off to one side to help compensate for your shoulders uneven positions.
- Look at your head position. You will see that it is tilted in order to bring your eyes level with the world. We cannot walk around the world with our eyes and more importantly our ears off level. Our eyes give us visual reference but our ears give us balance through our inner ears which contain the organs of balance. Disrupt those and you are dizzy.
- Look at how your head is rotated vertically off of center. When your head is tipped you will also turn your head left or right to bring it into a more centered position.
Remember that all of these movements require unbalanced muscle activity. This constant uneven muscle strain on your head and neck and strain on your neck vertebrae add up over your lifetime creating a situation for pain and or damage.
Test 2: Side Posture
Forward Head Posture (FHP) is a description of a postural problem where your head is not centered or balanced over your shoulders.
It causes strain and pain and over time the strain caused the build up of scar tissue at the base of the neck that was commonly called “Dowagers Hump” in old England. This is because your head weighs between 8 to 16 pounds. Think of a 15 pound barbell you may use in the gym for a workout. Now think of holding that barbell being in front of you for the rest of your life.
The strain of FHP causes a build up of muscle and connective tissue at the base of the neck. It also causes your spine to have unnatural curves that can affect your body all the way to the tips of your toes. Your neck vertebrae are too straight, your shoulders hunch forward, your upper back is over bent, your torso (your chest and tummy) are too far forward and your backside is sticking too far back. All to accommodate the stress and strain of a head that is out of position.
FHP can also create changes in the neck (Cervical) vertebrae and the disks between the vertebrae causing irreversible harm. Limited mobility due to skeletal or muscle changes is often the result.
Why do you have FHP in the first place? A couple of reasons:
- Less than optimal development of your upper and lower jaw bones cause to you open your mouth to mouth breath and mouth breathing requires your lips to part and the FHP helps accommodate that.
- By holding your head forward you help stretch out your airway that runs down the from your nose to your lungs and helps you get your next breath with less strain.
If you see your posture sets your head forward of your body, contact me to discuss what affect this could have for the rest of your body.
If you feel strain caused by your jaw, let us know
As you can see, when you have TMJ Disorder, your misaligned bite causes a ripple effect throughout all these regions and it results in pain and strain throughout the top half of your body. Bad posture is just one of the symptoms.
Correcting your bite so that your muscles can function properly and without additional strain can be the difference between living with muscle discomfort or with relaxed, properly functioning muscles.
Contact me to discuss what affect this could have for the rest of your body and how we can get your bite back to its best position.
Curtis Westersund, D.D.S.
Dentist Calgary, TMJ Calgary