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…
When I was about 5 years old, I remember playing a game with my older brother using brightly colored wooden blocks. The blocks came in all shapes and sizes and we would take turns putting one block on top of another, trying to build as large a tower of blocks as we could. The person who put the block on that caused the tower to fall over was the loser. I don’t remember much from when I was 5 years old, but I seem to remember my 8 year old brother always beating me at our building block tower game.
Looking back on it now, I think what my 8 year old brother knew, that I did not, was that it was very important to make sure that each block was aligned correctly and that the center of gravity of each block should be centered over the block beneath it.
Our body is built like a series of blocks, one on top of the other, and if a block is out of alignment, instead of falling over, we will feel pain.
The Postural Chain
The lower jaw is connected to the skull (Cranium). The cranium is connected to the neck. The neck is connected to the shoulders, and the shoulders are connected to the back. The back is connected to the hips and the hips are connected to the knees, ankles and feet.
Together the lower jaw, cranium, neck, shoulders, back, hips, knees, ankles and feet are known as a postural chain. This is because all of the pieces of the chain are connected together and if any of the pieces is out of alignment, it will eventually cause problems in other parts of the chain.
As we place the blocks of our bodies one on top of another, we can see from the childhood game described above, that the positioning of the top block is the most important factor in determining if our tower is going to fall over (causing you to feel pain). In our analogy, your top block is your head/cranium. That is why the position of your head can affect how the rest of your body feels.
Like a Set of Gears
In my last blog post, TMJ the Imposter, there was a YouTube video entitled “TMJ for Dummies.” In that video I explained that the upper jaw was fixed to the base of the skull and the lower jaw moved relative to a fixed upper plane. What I didn’t show in the video is the complex relationship between lower jaw position and cranial rotation.
The relationship between the position of the lower jaw, cranial rotation and neck posture is like a set of gears. When one gear moves, it causes a specific set of counter movements in the other gears.
Specifically, as the lower jaw moves forward, it causes backward rotation of the cranium and forward rotation of the neck. Conversely, if the lower jaw is retruded, it causes forward rotation of the cranium and backward rotation of the neck.
Your Lower Jaw and Your Stability
Previously we said that the top block was the most important determinant of the stability of the structures below the head. We have also shown that lower jaw position can affect cranial (top block) rotation. The conclusion, therefore is, that the position of your lower jaw can have a major affect on the stability of your neck, shoulders, back, hips, knees, ankles and feet.
If you have a bad bite because your teeth do not hit evenly, it will throw your lower jaw position off, which can cause a cascade of events that leads to postural instability and pain.
The answer to the question, “Can your teeth make your feet hurt?” is answered in this short video I made called “Posture for Dummies.”
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