By Dr. Scott Colasanti
In previous blogs I have discussed the importance of the relationship of the impact of certain parts of the body on other parts. For example, if you sprain your ankle, and you are limping, other parts of your body like your knees and your hips may be affected because they have to compensate for the abnormal biomechanics of your gait.
When it comes to examples like that, it takes no stretch of the imagination to see that relationship. However, abnormal biomechanical changes in the body usually have much more far-reaching impacts. An often-overlooked area of the body is the temporomandibular joint or simply the TMJ. This is essentially our ‘jaw joint’ which is a hinge-like structure that connects or lower and upper jaws, and hence allows us to chew and swallow our food and talk, among other things. The importance of this little joint can often be overlooked.
There is an integral relationship between our TMJ and our neck and upper back muscles. Basically, when we use our jaw, our jaw and neck muscle fire simultaneously, and vice versa. Poor posture like ‘head forward posture’ or slouching will impact our TMJ biomechanics. TMJ problems will impact our neck biomechanics. Now here comes the stretch; Lets go back to the sprained ankle. You start limping. Eventually your opposite knee and hip starts to hurt because of it. You are now ‘shifting’ your biomechanics in a way that will have an impact on your upper back and neck, and yes even your jaw. Further to that, neck and TMJ problems may be related to other issues like headaches, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), sinus problems and even snoring.
Health care professionals including dentists often overlook the importance and the integral role that the TMJ has on the body. The best approach is to address the whole body and this should involve an integrated approach among professionals. I can address issues with the neck and back, or may directly treat the TMJ with acupuncture or LASER therapy. I often refer patients back to their dentist to deal with specific issues involving the TMJ, and there are more and more dentists out there that acknowledge the global impact that the TMJ has on our health.