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The Hidden Conditions Associated with Your Jaw Joint

young adult woman laying in bed with her hands on her head in pain
Your jaw joint is called the temporomandibular joint. It’s the one that connects your mandible (lower jaw) to your skull. If you’ve been having pain in your jaw joint, you’ve likely come across a condition called TMJ disorder. TMJ disorder stems from the misalignment of your jaw joint. When your jaw is misaligned, it causes swelling, nerve damage, and bone degeneration. The symptoms of TMJ disorder are far-reaching and often seem unrelated, such as neck and shoulder pain, earaches, hearing loss, and numbness in your fingers. 

However, other conditions stem from issues with your jaw joint, too. 

  1. Chronic headaches and migraines
  2. Meniere’s Disease
  3. Obstructive Sleep Apnea

When you visit your Woburn and Winchester dentist, Dr. Ryan Clancy, he and his dental hygienists will inspect your jaw to determine if it’s in alignment. If we find that it’s out of alignment, we’ll ask a series of questions about any symptoms you feel. From there, we’ll recommend some tests to see if you’re experiencing one of the following conditions. 

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Connecting Chronic Headaches and Migraines to Your Jaw

You have 12 cranial nerves that connect to the back of your brain. One of these nerves, the trigeminal, runs from the back of your brain and right through your jaw joint. This nerve is responsible for the feeling in your face and head. When your jaw is misaligned, it can cause significant issues for this nerve, such as pinching and eventual nerve damage. You feel this as a headache. 

If your jaw is truly misaligned, your headaches will be chronic. You might feel that it’s due to stress, which could contribute, but more likely, it’s because your joint is pinching the trigeminal nerve. 

Scientists, doctors, and researchers are still trying to figure out migraine headaches. They’re different than other headaches because rather than pain from swelling nerves, migraines are a neurological phenomenon that doesn’t have a clear cause. However, we know that migraines have triggers such as allergens and food. Migraines can also be triggered by stress and other pain. Many patients with a jaw misalignment suffer chronic migraine headaches that cease when their jaw is realigned. 

Meniere’s Disease & Your Temporomandibular Joint

Meniere’s Disease is a disease of the inner ear. It has many of the same ear symptoms as jaw misalignment, such as ear fullness, ear ringing, hearing loss, and vertigo. TMJ disorder does not cause Meniere’s Disease, nor is TMJ caused by it, but some patients who undergo TMJ disorder treatment report their symptoms of Meniere’s Disease to lessen.

Your Jaw and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep-breathing condition characterized by your stoppage of breathing while you sleep. These pauses can last 10 seconds or much longer, happening dozens or sometimes hundreds of times per night, and are caused by an obstruction in your airway. You might wonder, what does this have to do with your jaw?

Well, many times, the obstruction in your airway is due to sagging soft tissues such as the tongue. When the tongue falls back into your airway as you sleep, there isn’t room for oxygen to get through. To make more room, we can position your jaw forward as you sleep so that even when your tongue sags, it doesn’t obstruct your airway.

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TMJ Disorder

The last disorder that is affected by your jaw is, you guessed it, TMJ disorder. If your jaw is misaligned, you may experience some of the above conditions as symptoms, and even if your conditions aren’t caused by TMJ disorder, TMJ disorder treatment can help. If you are experiencing these symptoms, call your Woburn and Winchester TMJ and sleep dentist at (781) 396-8558 or make an appointment online. Dr. Ryan Clancy can help you find the root cause of your symptoms.

Choose a Neuromuscular Dentist to Treat Your Jaw Joint 

You don’t need to live in pain or with other debilitating symptoms each day. Dr. Clancy and the dental team at Divine Smiles in Woburn and Winchester can help identify the root of your symptoms. If it’s something he can treat, like TMJ disorder, headaches, migraines, or obstructive sleep apnea, he’ll recommend the next steps, and in no time, you’ll start to feel better. He’ll recommend you to an ENT specialist if it’s something else. 

If you think you might have one of the jaw joint conditions listed, call Dr. Clancy at (781) 396-8558 or make an appointment online.

 It only takes one call to transform your life completely.

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By Ryan M. Clancy, DMD, MAGD, LVIF, FPFA, FIAPA | September 20th, 2022 | TMJ

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