Could Your Jaws be Giving You Neck and Head Pain? TMJ Disorder and Upper Cervical Connection

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If you’ve been experiencing regular neck and head pain, or jaw pain and tenderness, you may have a condition known as TMJ Disorder. Whether you’ve been diagnosed already or are wondering if you might have it, you should always take the time to educate yourself before consulting a doctor on the issues.

At our downtown Calgary dental office, we often treat this condition. We hope this article can help you ask the right questions as you seek treatment.

How Your Teeth Bite, and Head/Neck Alignment Affect Each Other

Simply put, dental occlusion is the way your teeth contact with each other during chewing, speaking, or while you are resting.

The TMJ – or Temporomandibular joint – is the joint of the jaw. The name comes from the two bones that make up the joint: the upper temporal bones and mandible. This is the only bilateral joint – a joint on both sides of the body – that crosses the midline of your body.

Because of this bilateral joint, the way your teeth align with each other affects the way that your neck and head align, and vice versa. This correlation can be divided into three parts:

  1. Synchronization of the head and jaw muscles at other parts – proper body posture
  2. Body balance – equilibrium
  3. Physical performance

There are entire system relationships between your dental occlusion/TMJ alignment and the general health of your body.

The Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

There are a few specific symptoms that come out when you have TMJ Disorder. If you find that you have some or most of these symptoms, immediately see Dr. Curtis Westersund for a TMJ diagnosis.

  • Pain or tenderness of the jaw
  • Aching pain in and around your ear
  • Pain in one or both of your jaw joints
  • Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing
  • Locking of the jaw joint(s) – making it difficult to open or close your mouth
  • Aching facial pain
  • Clicking sound/grating sensation when you chew

The Causes of TMJ Disorder

Many times, it’s hard to identify the cause of TMJ Disorder in many patients. However, there are specific circumstances in which the cause is clear. Some of these may include:

  • The sufferer has experienced whiplash or similar injuries
  • A misaligned bite (malocclusion)
  • The sufferer has long-term grinding or clenching of the teeth
  • Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis affecting the areas
  • Cartilage damage to the joint
  • Disk erosion/improper alignment
  • Jaw injury from impact

Remember that even if you are not aware of one of these issues, you may still have persistent jaw soreness or tenderness or have difficulty opening your mouth.

The Connection Between the Craniocervical Junction and Dental Occlusion

The Craniocervical Junction – or the point where the skull and the neck connect – is impacted by the TMJ and its alignment. When you have TMJ disorder or other conditions affecting this section of your body, you will likely have neck and head pain or isolated pain in either. You will also have jaw pain or tightness.

How Does TMJ Disorder Create an Imbalance of the Upper Neck

Whenever any portion of your body is misaligned, it affects other parts of your body, and usually the entire system.

TMJ misalignment directly affects your upper neck by applying inappropriate pressure to the system of the jaw, neck, and the craniocervical joint. This pressure then causes misalignment of these other joints and results in muscular dysfunction and neck pain. These issues create a downstream effect due to the changes in the curvature of the spine caused by the TMJ Disorder.

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Mayo Clinic

Who Should Treat TMD?

Because of this connectivity, chiropractors and dentists should co-manage the temporomandibular joint disorders to align everything for better overall health and reduction of pain and other symptoms brought on by TMJ disorders, jaw injuries, et cetera.

Both posture and malocclusion – or misalignment of the teeth connection point – affect your overall health, and specifically can cause disorders of the whole junction of the jaw or the neck and head.

Addressing all of the related issues are what will bring about healing and reduction of pain.

One of the methods that these issues can be addressed is by NUCCA coupled with TMJ occlusion therapy.

What Exactly is NUCCA Chiropractic Care?

NUCCA stands for National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association. This association has created a precise technique for chiropractic treatment that is safe, gentle, and effective.

A close analysis of precisely take radiographic images of the affected area – in this case, the head, neck, and jaw – is made to determine what kind of chiropractic intervention is needed by the individual patient.

The NUCCA technique involves a gentle, controlled contact on the first vertebrae of the neck, just at the craniocervical joint. This is a low-force adjustment that helps return the parts of the Craniocervical joint – and therefore jaw – toward the more neutral position.

In other words, instead of using some of the harsher methods that jerk your body, the NUCCA method uses a gentle approach that eases your head, neck, and jaw into proper alignment.

When this is done, pain in these areas should decrease significantly, and the long-term effects of misalignment should be diminished and corrected.

NUCCA treatments do best when partnered with Neuromuscular dentistry treatments for full healing and recovery.tmj disorder

What Is Neuromuscular Dentistry and How Does it Help Treat TMJ?

The neuromuscular and physiologic dental approach to TMJ therapy focuses on the correction of jaw alignment. Dr. Curtis Westersund will determine, through X-rays, digital radiographs, and electromyography, what the optimal position of the jaw is in the patient and determine how to treat the jaw for re-alignment into the proper occlusion.

The different exams and images demonstrate different aspects of the issue, such as electromyography demonstrating the abnormal patterns of muscle activity in patients with TMD.

These studies and exams done by Dr. Curtis Westersund help understand the ideal position of the jaw, and how to bring the jaw into that proper alignment in each individual patient.

tmj disorder

You Don’t Have to Suffer from this Neck and Head Pain

If you’re unsure if you have these conditions, but know you have several of the symptoms, come in for a TMJ consult at our downtown Calgary dental office immediately for diagnosis and treatment.

If you were diagnosed with TMJ Disorder or some similar condition, you should seek the help of professionals who focus in the treatment of these conditions, such as a NUCCA chiropractor and a dentist with a neuromuscular approach.

These TMJ treatment providers can help you get your upper body realigned and reduce the neck and head pain you’ve been experiencing.

If you’re looking for TMJ relief, consider contacting our dental office today for a TMJ exam.

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