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…
My last post was called “The Great Imposter,” because TMJ is a disease that takes many different forms and manifests itself in different patients in different ways. Because of this, TMJ is like an “Imposter,” with the symptoms of TMJ mimicking other diseases.
I previously listed nine different types of symptoms the TMJ patients I see present with:
(1) Dental Problems
(2) Ear Problems
(3) Muscular Problems
(4) Structural/Postural Symptoms
(5) Neurological Problems
(6) Airway Problems
(7) Cardiac Problems
(8) Gastrointestinal Problems
(9) Endocrine/Hormonal Problems
Over my next three or four posts, I will go into detail about how problems with the way your teeth fit together can cause so many different types of symptoms. Today’s post will deal with numbers 1, 2 and 3 above.
I Am In the Minority of Dentists
You would think in an established profession like dentistry, there would be agreement among dentists about dental problems and how to fix them. For the majority of the problems general dentists treat there is.
However, when it comes to Malocclusion (problems with the way the teeth come together), there are many different philosophies and schools of thought. The majority of dentists believe the way your teeth come together has no correlation to problems inside of your jaw joints. They also do not believe that pain of muscular origin, like headaches, neck aches and backaches have anything to do with your teeth or your bite.
The reason the majority of dentists in the United States believe this is because that is what they were taught in dental school. That is what I was taught when I went to dental school. It was only after what I was taught, didn’t jive with what I saw in my patients, that I began to search for other philosophies that would explain what I was seeing in the patients who were coming to my office with headaches, popping and clicking in their jaw joints and ear problems.
After many years of searching, what I discovered was that the upper jaw is fixed to the base of the skull and does not move. The lower jaw moves relative to the fixed upper jaw through contraction of muscles which attach to the lower jaw. If the teeth hold the lower jaw in a place that causes the muscles that attach to the lower jaw to be stressed, those muscles will become painful and spasm. A patient will feel these spasming muscles as a headache, neck ache or shoulder ache.
There is, however, a place for the lower jaw to be (relative to the fixed upper jaw) where the muscles that attach to the lower jaw can be relaxed. We call this relaxed muscle position of the lower jaw your Neuromuscular (NM) position. Note that the NM position has nothing to do with the teeth. The NM position is a “Muscle Determined” position. I am a Neuromuscular Dentist. That is because I use the muscles to determine where the lower jaw should be to allow a patient who has pain of muscular origin to heal.
Most dentists do NOT use the muscles to determine where the lower jaw should be; that is why I am in the minority. I put together the following video to explain how a bad bite can lead to problems with the muscles that attach to the lower jaw, cause problems in your ears like ringing (in your ears), vertigo or congestion and cause your jaw joints to pop and click or get stuck (locked) with limited range of motion.
In my next blog post I will be discussing problems (4) and (5) and explaining why a problem with the way your teeth fit together can cause hip, knee, ankle and foot pain.
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