Dr. Scott Tamura was born in Los Angeles and has practiced dentistry in Marina Del Rey California for over 25 years. He is a member of the American Dental Association, California Dental Association, West Los Angeles Dental…
The scientific literature reports that between 55 and 80% of all patients with TMJ have neck pain. In my Marina Del Rey (California) practice, as a dentist who treats TMJ, I would have to say it is closer to 90%. Nine out of ten patients I see for TMJ have some sort of neck pain.
My TMJ patients neck pain ranges from mild soreness and stiffness to severe, debilitating pain radiating from the back of the head, down the neck and into the shoulders with severe limitations of cranial rotation. A large number of my TMJ patients will say when they are in their cars and try to turn their head to see where they are going when they back up, they actually have to turn their shoulders to see what is behind them, rather than having their shoulders facing forward and just turning their heads.
Where do these neck pains and limitations of neck range of motion come from?
It is possible they come from a “Bad Bite”.
The Ideal Bite
When your mouth is open, your lower jaw should close on an unimpeded arc of closure that uses the least amount of muscle contraction, with an endpoint that has your teeth resting together so that your lower jaw is held in a place that is relaxing to the muscles of the head and neck.
The Bad Bite
It is common for people who have a bad bite to close their teeth together and have their teeth force their lower jaws backwards. One consequence of this is that the balls are forced to the back of the sockets, inside of the ball-socket jaw joints, which causes jaw joint problems like TMJ.
Another consequence of your teeth forcing your lower jaw back is that this puts a tremendous amount of stress on the muscles of the head and neck that attach to the lower jaw. If you have read any of my previous DS posts, or seen any of my youtube videos (http://www.youtube.com/user/DrScottTamura), you may have seen the following graphic that helps depict an important structural relationship between your neck, lower jaw, and head posture.
What this diagram shows is that when the lower jaw moves forward, it causes your head to tilt back, and when your lower jaw moves backwards, it causes your head to tilt forward. Like all things in the human body, movement of one structure will have affects on other structures. In this case it is the green arrow depicted in the picture which represents the neck. Because the head is connected to the neck, changes in head posture will affect the muscles and vertebrae (bones) in your neck.
So, a bad bite, that forces your lower jaw backward; can cause your head to rotate forward which can put a tremendous amount of stress on your neck, making it sore and painful.
The relationships between Occlusion (the way teeth fit together), Mandibular (lower jaw) position, Cranial (head) rotation, and Cervical (neck) posture are so fundamental to the diagnosis and treatment of patients with TMJ, that many experts in the field believe that it should be given its own name. The diagnosis of CMCD or Cranio Mandibular Cervical Dysfunction has been accepted by the academics in the field of TMJ and I am beginning to see the term CMCD in more and more of the scientific literature I read. The fact that this nomenclature is being promoted and accepted by the community of practioners who treat TMJ is further evidence that your teeth really can be a “Pain in the Neck”.
I have put together a short youtube video which helps to explain in layman’s terms why having a “Bad Bite” can cause painful and debilitating neck pain.
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