TMJ and Nerves

TMJ and Nerves

The most important factor affecting a person’s general health is how the lower jaw fits the skull. When the TMJ is misaligned or dysfunctional, it can affect several nerves in the head and neck.

Understanding the Connection Between TMJ and Nerves

The nerves affected by the TMJ are crucial for sensory and motor functions. When compromised, the effects can be paralyzing. Understanding these connections can help diagnose and treat TMJ disorders effectively.

The Intricate Relationship Between TMJ and Nerves

The TMJ is one of the most important joints because nine of the 12 cranial nerves surround it. These cranial nerves connect to the whole spine through 68 pairs of dominant muscles. This means that any

change in the position of the mandible and TMJ, can affect the spine. As a result, it also affects the vital activities of the brain. In brief, TMJ is a joint that has various effects on the structure and function of the body.

Mandibular Nerve and Vagus Nerve

​​The mandibular nerve is responsible for facial sensory and motor functions. This includes chewing, speaking, and feeling sensations in the lower face and jaw.

The vagus nerve, on the other hand, is one of the most critical nerves in the body. It extends from the brainstem to the abdomen, passing through various organs, including the heart and the digestive tract. This nerve is part of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls bodily

functions like heart rate regulation, digestion, and respiration. The vagus and mandibular nerve overlap in the area near the ear and temple region. This overlap allows for interactions between the two nerves. In some cases, issues with the mandibular nerve can affect the vagus nerve, leading to various health issues.

TMJ, Vagus Nerve, and Mandibular Nerve: The Connection

When the TMJ is not functioning correctly, it can put pressure on the Mandibular Nerve. It thereby influences the vagus nerve and affects the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The mandibular nerve supplies the jaw, teeth, and surrounding tissues with nerve function. Dysfunction or inflammation in this area can affect the vagus nerve and ANS. As a result, it can cause a lot of issues as described below.

Effects on the Mandibular Nerve:

  • Pressure and Irritation: When your jaw is misaligned, it can put pressure on the mandibular nerve. This nerve helps you chew and feel sensations in your lower jaw. This pressure can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or even weaken your jaw muscles.
  • Muscle Strain: It can also cause uneven tension in your jaw muscles, leading to jaw joint problems, which can irritate the nerve.

Connection to the Vagus Nerve and Autonomic Nervous System:

  • Nerve Interactions: The mandibular and vagus nerve are part of a network of nerves that influence each other. Although they do not connect directly, stress and pain from a misaligned jaw can affect the autonomic nervous system.
  • Stress Responses: Pain from jaw issues can trigger the body’s stress response. This has an impact on the balance between your stress and relaxation systems. Ongoing pain can raise stress hormones, affecting the vagus nerve and overall nerve balance.

Health Issues from Misalignment:

  1. Pain: Ongoing jaw pain can lead to headaches, migraines, and pain spreading to your neck and shoulders, affecting overall well-being.
  2. TMJ Disorders: Problems with the jaw joint (TMJ disorders) can cause jaw pain, clicking or popping sounds, limited jaw movement, and facial pain.
  3. Autonomic Nervous System Problems: Imbalances in the autonomic system can cause heart palpitations, digestive issues (like IBS), and trouble regulating body temperature. Anxiety and stress from chronic pain can worsen these symptoms.
  4. Sleep Issues: Misalignment can lead to sleep problems (improper airway alignment, including sleep apnea). Poor sleep quality affects overall health and nerve function.
  5. Posture Problems: Jaw misalignment can cause changes in posture, leading to back, neck, and shoulder pain. This pain can further impact health and stress levels.

TMJ and Nerves: The Role of Jaw Alignment

Jaw alignment plays a crucial role in TMJ health.

Misalignment can cause the muscles around the TMJ to work harder than they should, leading to muscle fatigue and pain. This misalignment can also affect the nerves, leading to the symptoms mentioned earlier.

Furthermore, when the jaw is misaligned, it can put undue stress on the surrounding ligaments and tissues. As a result, it can cause more tension and discomfort.

TMJ and Nerves: How Jaw Alignment Affects the Autonomic Nervous System

The autonomic nervous system has two main branches: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The SNS is responsible for the “fight or flight” response, while the PNS controls “rest and digest” functions. Misalignment in the jaw can cause chronic stress on the ANS,

leading to an imbalance between the SNS and PNS. This can result in symptoms like anxiety, high blood pressure, and digestive issues. Restoring proper jaw alignment can reduce the strain on the ANS and help the body return to a more balanced and relaxed state.

Functional Dentistry: A Solution

Functional dentistry focuses on diagnosing and treating the root causes of dental issues rather than just addressing the symptoms. One of the most effective treatments for TMJ disorders is Biorejuvenation, which takes a holistic approach to dental health.

What is Biorejuvenation?

Biorejuvenation is a restorative technique that aims to restore the natural function of the teeth, jaws, and muscles. This technique evaluates the patient’s bite, jaw alignment, and muscle function.

This conservative treatment option focuses on restoring the teeth to their natural position. This in turn improves the TMJ’s function, balance, and harmony and reduces the impact on nerves.

Benefits of Biorejuvenation Dentistry

Improved Jaw Alignment:

It improves jaw alignment, which can alleviate pressure on the nerves.

Pain Relief:

Patients often experience relief from jaw pain, headaches, and other symptoms associated with TMJ disorders.

Better Overall Health:

Proper jaw alignment can lead to better overall health.

The Biorejuvenation Process

Comprehensive TMJ Evaluation: We thoroughly evaluate the patient’s bite, jaw alignment, and muscle function.

Customized Treatment Plan: Next, we create a personalized treatment plan to address the root cause(s) of the TMJ disorder.

Restorative Treatments: Finally, we use various restorative treatments to improve jaw alignment. We also restore the natural function of the teeth and muscles.

Common Misconceptions about TMJ and Nerves

TMJ Disorders Only Affect the Jaw

While TMJ disorders primarily affect the jaw, they can also significantly impact the nerves and overall health. Understanding the connection between TMJ and nerves is crucial for effective treatment. TMJ disorders can lead to nerve-related symptoms extending beyond the jaw, influencing the body’s overall function.

Surgery is the Only Option

Surgery is not the only option for treating TMJ disorders. Functional dentistry, including Biorejuvenation, offers non-invasive and effective solutions for addressing the root causes of TMJ disorders. Many patients find relief through these treatments without the need for surgical intervention.

TMJ Disorders are Rare

TMJ disorders are more common than many people think. If you have jaw pain, headaches, or earaches, see a TMJ dentist for TMJ evaluation and treatment. Addressing these symptoms before they get worse is critical. Ignoring these symptoms can lead to chronic pain and further complications with the nerves and muscles of the jaw.

TMJ Diagnosis and Treatment

Understanding the connection between TMJ and nerves is essential for effective diagnosis and treatment. Functional dentistry, particularly Biorejuvenation, offers a comprehensive approach to addressing the root causes of TMJ disorders. By improving jaw alignment and relieving nerve pressure, you can improve overall health and well-being.

TMJ and Nerves: Comprehensive Approach to TMJ Disorders

If you have TMJ symptoms, see a functional dentist like Bernie Villadiego, DDS for treatment options. Remember, proper jaw alignment is not just about a beautiful smile but your overall health and well-being.