TMJ Dysfunction

(An Ounce of Prevention)

The letters "TMJ" conjure up all sorts of ideas and opinions among both the lay public and dental and medical personnel. The reason for that is why I often refer to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) as "the mysterious joint. It is the only joint of its kind in the human body. The type of joint it represents is a ginglymo-arthrodial joint. A ginglymus joint is a hinge-joint and an arthrodia joint is a gliding joint. The TMJ is the only joint that both hinges and glides. So from a purely anatomical perspective, the TMJ is a very complex joint. And that is only the beginning of its complexity.

There are 68 pairs of muscles that either directly or indirectly affect the position of the jaws. Together, those 136 muscles determine head, cervical, shoulder, and jaw position. Using a background in physics and engineering, Dr. Casey Gusay determined that the muscle controlled "pivotal axis" of the lower jaw occurred at the dens between C1 (the atlas or first cervical vertebrae) and C2 (the axis or second cervical vertebrae). Therefore, TMJ dysfunction and dental malocclusion causes a disturbing posturing of C1 and C2. This malposturing of C1 and C2 torques the "dura mater" which is attached to them. The dura mater is a thick and dense inelastic membrane that envelops the brain and the spinal cord. Torquing of the dura can cause scoliosis, cervical hypolordosis (military neck), thoracic hyperkyphosis (hump back), excessive lumbar lordosis (sway back), rotation of the pelvis resulting in uneven leg length, uneven shoulder height and quite possibly head tilt. When those 136 muscles are allowed to assume a more physiologically balanced relationship (by correcting the malocclusion, the jaw position, and the vertical dimension) the head assumes a more upright posture, the shoulders level off, the pelvic rotation relaxes allowing the leg length to equalize, and the overall body posture tends to normalize.

Adding yet more complexity to the TMJ is the fact that 92% of all the nerves that enter and exit the skull come in direct contact with either the sphenoid bone or the temporal bones, which coincidentally happen to be the two bones that are most influenced by the position of the jaws. If those bones are in a strained position due to jaw position, some of those nerves could be irritated and/or stimulated causing symptoms that would not seem directly related to the TMJ. That is exactly what happens.

Almost a half-century ago, two scientists named Penfield and Rasmussen, demonstrated that almost half of both sensory and motor aspects of the brain are devoted to the "dental area" or what I would call our gnathologic system. So, approximately half of the programming of our computer-brain that runs the body, comes from the gnathologic system. Consider also the fact that the muscles of mastication and the muscles of facial expression accurately and instantaneously register happiness, anger, fear, excitement, animosity, love, hatred, sadness, pain, sickness and all attitudes of the body. If there are malalignments in the gnathologic system, the impulse patterns will transmit stressful messages, inevitably to all parts of the body. Clearing up those pathological impulses through the correction of jaw position and malocclusion offers the possibility of elimination of many chronic and seemingly unrelated medical conditions

The late great Dr. Al Fonder labeled what I call TMJ dysfunction or crainial-mandibular-cervical dysfunction, the Dental Distress Syndrome (or DDS, now aren't those letters quite a coincidence). He said, "DDS patients complain of headache, dizziness, hearing loss, depression, worrying, nervousness, forgetfulness, suicidal tendencies, insomnia, sinusitis, fatigue, indigestion, constipation, ulcers, dermatitis, allergies, frequent urination, kidney and bladder complications, cold hands and feet, body pains and numbness and a host of sexual failures and gynecological problems. Elimination of the DDS reverses these chronic problems, the body chemistry and blood picture normalize."