TMJ and the neck

Q: My dentist is treating me for TMJ pain. He suggested that I also go to a chiropractor to have my neck treated because he thinks it may help with my TMJ problem. What will a chiropractor do to help TMJ?

A: The complexity of TMJ (temporo-mandibular joint) dysfunction often warrants a team approach to treatment. Chiropractors may work concurrently with dentists and other physicians to correct or reduce a patient’s TMJ dysfunction. The chiropractic aspect of care involves making any needed adjustments to the neck and/or jaw joint. Delicate adjustments of the cranial bones may also be performed to help correct the TMJ.

TMJ problems are relatively common. TMJ dysfunction is a complex condition that can have far reaching physical and even emotional effects. Symptoms of TMJ dysfunction may include:

  • sore jaw or neck
  • headaches
  • earaches
  • facial aches 
  • clicking or popping of the jaw
  • tooth pain
  • painful chewing
  • difficulty swallowing
  • dizziness

Some sufferers of TMJ dysfunction report nausea, scalp sensitivity and/or ringing in the ears (tinnitus). Also, it is not uncommon for TMJ dysfunction to be misdiagnosed as sinusitis or ear infection because the TMJ symptoms may mimic these conditions.

TMJ dysfunction and neck misalignments are closely related. That is, when the jaw joint malfunctions, it will pull the neck bones out of alignment, causing unhealthy distortions of the cervical spine. Conversely, when the neck is out of alignment from injuries such as whiplash or repetitive stress, it can cause TMJ misalignments and symptoms.