My TMJ – where do I find it?
Location, location, location – not only important in real estate
While your Temporo Mandibular Joint may be quite a mouthful to pronounce, it’s easy to locate. To find your jaw joint, trace your finger to under your cheekbone – just in front of the middle of your ear. Open and close your jaw – can you feel that movement? Do you feel the movement of your jaw joint against your skull? That’s your TMJ! It’s the point where your lower jaw attaches to your skull.
Because of the stress placed on the TMJ, a variety of symptoms can develop – headaches, tingling in your fingers and back of your hand and pain in your neck or shoulders.
Here’s another trick – place your little fingers, pads forward, in your ear canals and gently pull them forward. Now open and close your teeth. Do you feel any clicking, popping or grinding? If you do, that’s a stressed TMJ.
Your jaws do NOT “hinge”…
Contrary to what you might believe, your jaw joint isn’t a hinge. Many people believe a jaw joint operates similar to a door hinge; moving along as it’s required. That’s misinformation. Your jaw joint is more like a ball. The joint rotates and slides forward or backward, even swinging from side-to-side. Your jaws are NOT connected bone-to-bone, there are ligaments and soft tissue there as well.
Breathing and Tongues – how they affect your balance
Many TMJ problems start during childhood. One of the major causes of TMJ in adults are childhood breathing issues. The most important need we have is to breath. We may go without food and water for a day or two, but we can hold our breath for less than a minute. Breathing is our bodies primary need. In a child, allergies, enlarged tonsils and adenoids, and blocked nasal passages all contribute to difficulty breathing through the nose.
If the child cannot breath through the nasal passage he or she will breath through the mouth. Problem solved? Not really. Chronic mouth breathers need the tongue to sit low in the mouth so air can pass over it on the way to the lungs. Normally the tongue resst up behind the upper teeth, close to the roof of your mouth. Why is this important? The tongue is a large and powerful muscle. It is important for the development of the upper jaw during growth. The tongue’s function is to create a balancing force to the inward pressure of your lips and cheeks. Lips and cheeks push in on the upper jaw, tongue pushes out. Everything needs to be in balance during growth.
Mouth breathers do not have balance and the result will not be to the child’s genetic potential but instead show a narrowing of the upper jaw. Instead of the upper jaw being shaped by the “U” shape tongue muscle, the lips and cheeks compensate by squeezing the upper jaw into a “V” shape. The worse the mouth breathing, the more dramatic the “V” shape the upper jaw. The lower jaw is impacted by these same growth imbalances. The lower jaw usually forms in a genetically determined “U” shape.
When you have an imbalanced bite . . .
- Your upper jaw will be shaped in a V.
- Your lower jaw will be shaped in a broad U.
- Your upper and lower jaws don’t have the same shape – they don’t mesh.
For your jaw to work properly, every time you open and close your mouth, your lower jaw has to move back to where it’s wider. Your jaw joint rotates and slides back and up. The up and back movement of your jaw compresses the jaw joint into it’s socket or “fossa”. This fossa sits just in front of your ear. Place your little finger in your ear, finger pad forward and open and close your mouth, biting on your back molar teeth. You may feel how your little finger is squeezed by the movement of the lower jaw going back and up into the fossa.
It’s all connected …
There are a series of muscles, nerves and tendons connecting the jaw with other bones of the skull and neck. If your upper and lower jaws aren’t compatible, all of the muscles, tendons and nerves in the entire head and neck system must compensate. Every time you bring your teeth together to chew, bite, swallow, talk, sing, etc – your jaw is strained, attempting to create balance and control.
A slight imbalance in your bite, over time, will cause significant problems.
What else does the tongue function as?
Did you know that your tongue is the strongest muscle in the your body, relative to its size? It’s also the only muscle that isn’t attached on both ends. Weird but true..
Besides the interesting trivia, your tongue is crucial for your overall health.
#1 Your tongue is attached to your lower jaw and when you have imbalance in your bite, it essentially acts as a pillow, a cushion to help relax your jaw. This resting on your lower back teeth often tips the lower back teeth inward, causing further changes to the c function of the jaws to each other. This often leads to gum loss around teeth.
#2 Your tongue lives in the space created by your upper and lower teeth. When you bite together, that space created by the teeth is all the room your tongue has. It may not be enough.
When you have imbalance or a disproportionate bite, your tongue doesn’t have the room to fit in your mouth. It’s like parking a limousine in a garage designated for a Mini. When your limousine tongue is parked in your Mini mouth, it leads to improper tongue placement. The only way for the tongue to go is back and that can lead to blocked and restricted air passages. Tongue posture is a major factor in Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a serious health problem.