What if it really IS all in your head? Could your TMJ Disorder symptoms be confused with other problems? Can a good TMJ dentist change your life?
FACT #1: It’s entirely possible the CAUSE of many of your health concerns has been completely overlooked.
FACT #2: If you don’t think YOU have dental, bite or airway issues, you’re probably wrong.
This is a long article so plan on studying it over time. Find and follow the Resource Links at the bottom, and learn, learn, learn. And here are other articles that speak about TMJ. Your life is about to change!
Here’s my story….
After decades of searching for the BIG clue for my many health issues, recent diagnoses of TMJ disorder, mild snoring/sleep disturbances and chronic bite abnormality have led to new understanding of the health impact of the mouth. Far beyond the typical understanding of what I thought these meant.
Why did it take 50 years to find out it may really BE all in my head?
Diagnosing these apparently separate issues of mildly obstructed breathing, sleep problems, chronic fatigue, bite and TMJ can be difficult if you don’t fit the classic patterns of TMJ dysfunction. The VAST majority of dentists do NOT address these issues except in a somewhat perfunctory manner. (Or incorrectly). In fact, most dentists will assure you they work on TMJ problems, but in truth, they don’t address them properly or completely. They can also make you worse.
TMJ disorder symptoms are often overlooked in chronic conditions such as fatigue, anxiety and insomnia. Finding the right TMJ specialist can be difficult.
The key is that these issues are basically the same thing. Bad bite, crowded teeth, restricted airway, sleep apnea and TMJ dysfunction should all be addressed simultaneously. The whole mouth is at fault: tongue, teeth, arches, missing teeth, receding chin, enlarged tonsils, mouth breathing, and more.
Connecting sleep apnea with dental issues is very recent thinking, and most dentists don’t even consider airway problems in their dental or orthodontic patients. And the sleep docs don’t think about the teeth, only about CPAP machines or doing surgery on the palate or jaw. (Losing weight and not drinking alcohol can be useful too).
Anatomy of Your Face and Jaw
Anatomy 101: The lower half of your head is a complicated, condensed network of bone, ears, brain stem, nerves, arteries, lymph vessels, palate, airway, acupuncture meridians, teeth, muscles, gums and joints. It’s by far the most complex area in the human body. As such, it’s got potential for diverse problems.
Bite and facial distortions (such as a long face, recessed chin, buck teeth, etc.) can CAUSE health problems, including anxiety, dizziness, tinnitus, chronic fatigue, indigestion, headaches, insomnia, sleep apnea, heart rate disorders, immune dysfunction and more. Compression of the Vagus Nerve behind your jaw and down your head and neck will do all this and more.
Starting from conception, poor maternal nutrition can cause malformation in the child’s face and jaw. As studied by the great Weston A. Price in the 1940’s, even one generation of non-heritage food can cause narrowing of the face, producing visible and usually permanent changes in the teeth and head. And, in the person’s health.
We know now that some of this can be corrected or prevented in childhood with adherence to WAPF protocols (although I am not a supporter of eating grains at any age, sprouted or not), as well as breastfeeding, encouraging the eating of chewier foods, and not allowing thumb sucking or mouth breathing.
Imbalanced Facial Structure
For most of the rest of us, we probably had facial and oral deformities that required us to wear braces or have teeth pulled. Years later we have unequal bites, TMJ problems, pain, headaches and undiagnosed sleep apnea or airway restriction. This may ALL be caused by imbalanced facial structure.
Some people suffer with distinct TMJ disorders – clicking jaws, jaw pain, headaches, dizziness and more. Some suffer with distinct sleep apnea.
Others, like myself, have NO APPARENT SYMPTOMS at all. Only with a specialized dentist who is passionate about discovering and FIXING facial and dental formation can these problems be revealed and fixed. And NOT with surgery or a CPAP! And, at any age!
Braces pull teeth INWARDS, often requiring other teeth to be pulled to allow room. Proper CranioFacial Therapy EXPANDS the dental arch, retrains the tongue to rest at the roof of the mouth, relaxes facial and neck muscles, and allows the jaw to move forward to its correct position, opening the airway naturally.
I have a slightly recessed chin, a narrow jaw and a small mouth with high crowded arches. My decades of working with (I thought) top dentists never included discussions about bite, sleep airway disorders or TMJ dysfunction. I am still recovering from the shock of discovering I have these issues!
How did I find out about TMJ Disorder Symptoms?
I was working with a new Naturopath who suggested I get tested for sleep apnea. I assured him I didn’t have it but I would test. I wore a simple wristband type Pulse Oximetry Device with an attached finger cup recording my blood oxygen and heart rate all night. The results were not what I expected!
My restricted airway was causing me to have hundreds of “events” of oxygen de-saturation all night long. Hello Insomnia and Chronic Fatigue!
I was completely unaware of this. I have no bed partner to fuss at any snoring I might have, or observe me having reduced breathing. I don’t have full-blown sleep-apnea, where breathing can stop for 3 minutes or more, but instead a milder form of Obstructed Airway. But definitely NOT normal/perfect sleep or breathing.
What to do??
Have my bite fixed, retrain the tongue and swallowing habits, and wear proactive mouth splints day and night for several years. These appliances will broaden my arches, giving room for teeth to stand up straighter and even erupt (grow taller). (Who knew they could do that at age 61?)
The jaw will move forward, resetting the position of the TMJ (the joint that the jaw hinges on) and opening the airway. And taking the pressure off that all-important Vagus Nerve.
Is it working yet?
After only ONE MONTH of wearing my new appliances, my event scores on a second overnight Pulse Oximetry test were HALF what they were! Wow! And I have worn a regular “nightguard” in my mouth for many years.
I consulted 4 different “advanced bite specialists” about my best plan of action, and 2 of them told me to either leave it all alone or to have my lower jaw surgically cut and moved forward an inch. One did give me a plan similar to what I’m now doing. I am fortunate to find the other doc who assures me he will rearrange my whole face without surgery.
If you’re a parent, you can prevent or treat much of this correctly from the start. If you’re an adult, you CAN fix these things, but it will require a time and a major financial commitment. I recommend to all my clients that they start a Dental Savings Account and fund it generously and quickly. Vitamin K2 is the KEY to early formation of wide cheekbones and a less crowded mouth. I have 2 kinds in my online store and many articles and podcasts on Vitamin K2.
RESOURCES: First of all, “Search” in your city for TMJ and Sleep Apnea, such as “San Antonio TMJ Sleep Apnea”. Read carefully through your findings and you might be lucky to find someone actually educated in these. Not just giving “lip service”. Be careful with those who stress Sleep Apnea as what they really do, as they may only offer surgery or a CPAP, not TMJ correction.
On the other hand, be wary if they only discuss TMJ problems as they might not address your airway issues. You must do both at the same time! Ask them directly if they believe you have airway issues and if their project will resolve it.
Second, buy or rent an overnight wrist worn Pulse Oximeter and test your breathing and heart rate during sleep. Many doctors or top dentists have them. We have one for my clients to rent for the night. You can buy one for $100 to $300 although they may be hard to find.
Here’s the site of an amazing dentist and lecturer. I hope you find a health breakthrough here.