How TMJ Causes Symptoms Throughout Your Body

Boutique Dentistry for Nashville, Tennessee

One thing that makes TMJ hard to diagnose is that its symptoms can be so many and so variable. In fact, two people might have TMJ and not share any symptoms between them. Partly, that’s because TMJ is an umbrella term that refers to many linked or related conditions, but it’s also partly because these conditions can cause a wide variety of symptoms throughout the body. 

People often wonder why TMJ symptoms can be so variable and so widespread. The explanation depends on muscles, nerves, and bones. These connections also explain why neuromuscular dentistry is an ideal treatment approach. 

A woman suffering from back pain holds her lower back in agony. TMJ symptoms also spread because the body’s muscles are densely interlinked - even your back.

Nerve Connections

TMJ symptoms spread in part because of the way our nerves link up. Nerves often carry commands to muscles as well as pain information back to the brain. 

One of the major nerves to look at for TMJ is the trigeminal nerve, which is the largest of the cranial nerves, and carries commands to the jaw muscles. It’s also the trigger point for migraines. When the jaw is imbalanced, signals to and from the jaw muscles, causing them to clench and carrying the pain of their exhaustion, can overwhelm the trigeminal nerve. This causes the nerve to become sensitized to pain, making even minor sensations seem painful. In addition, when the trigeminal nerve is overwhelmed, it can release the proteins that set off migraines. 

Nerves are also shared lines. Pain signals aren’t conveniently marked by where they’re coming from, and the brain can confuse pain in the jaws and teeth as coming from somewhere else, such as the head. 

Interlinked Muscles

TMJ symptoms also spread because the body’s muscles are densely interlinked. These muscles share duties and help each other work. 

When one muscle gets stressed, its partner can pitch in a little more to help out. For example, when the jaw muscles get stressed, the neck muscles might pitch in a little more where they can. This makes the neck muscles stressed, too. It’s not hard for stress in the jaw to spread this way to the head, neck, shoulders, and upper back. 

Tilted Bones

Another problem with muscles helping out when it’s not their primary job is that it affects the alignment of the part being moved. Thus, jaw imbalance becomes neck imbalance. As the body tries to correct for these imbalances, it actually creates other imbalances, tilting the spine one way and then another to make an uneven pile of vertebrae like a toddler’s stack of blocks. 

This not only affects the appearance of your body, creating an asymmetrical and crooked look, it can affect the nerves that have to travel from the spine to the rest of the body. 

When the spine is straight, there is just enough room for the nerves to thread their way out of the spine. When the spine tilts, the spaces narrow, and the bone can start putting pressure on the nerves. This can lead to pain, tingling, or numbness. One of the most common places this happens due to TMJ is in the fingers. It’s one of the most surprising symptoms people get from TMJ–tingling and numbness in their fingers. It can be very hard for doctors to link this to a jaw problem. 

Looking for TMJ Treatment in Nashville?

If you are experiencing TMJ symptoms and are looking for treatment in Nashville, neuromuscular dentist Dr. Kent White can help. Please call (615) 383-6787 today for an appointment at the Center for Advanced Dentistry.