Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) pain impacts more than just your jaw joint. It affects your entire body, and perhaps most importantly, it can rewire your brain to make even minor touches into pain and prevents you from focusing on cognitive tasks. Is TMJ disorder affecting your entire body without you realizing it?

Recognize the signs and seek treatment in Savannah, GA to take back control of your life.

How TMJ Affects the Entire Body

You might be wondering how something that occurs in your jaw joint can affect your entire body. TMJ disorder can affect your entire body because it can rewire your brain. Your temporomandibular joint is located near your skull. Your brain is connected to your spinal cord and when you have TMJ disorder, it affects your spine which can cause problems with the brain sending or receiving signals. In other words, TMJ disorder causes a roadblock between the information your brain wants to send and receive. With this interruption, it can affect the entire body including imbalances of the nerves, muscles, airway, spine/posture, and bones. Discover some of the ways TMJ affects your whole body and the TMJ effects on the brain.

Every Touch Becomes Painful

Brain scans of people with TMJ reveal they have very different responses to “innocuous” touches. In one study, low-frequency vibration of the index finger was performed on people with TMJ and healthy controls while their brains were monitored. TMJ sufferers had distinct regions of the brain activate, and more of them. In TMJ sufferers, the pain response network readied itself for even the most minor of touches. In addition, the hearing portion of the brain activated for TMJ sufferers, which may show us why they get tinnitus–the auditory cortex may be activating in response to pain.

Perhaps most importantly, the amygdala activated in TMJ sufferers. The amygdala is a region of the brain that is associated with learning. Your body is trying to understand its pain and learn ways to prevent it. This dedication of constant attention to your pain comes at a real cognitive price.

The Cognitive Cost of TMJ

People with TMJ have a harder time focusing on tasks because of the amount of effort that goes into keeping track of their pain. In a study involving 17 TMJ sufferers and 17 age-matched healthy controls, TMJ patients performed worse on cognitive tests. They were slower to complete a series of cognitive tests, and brain scans showed that their brains were responding differently to the tasks. They had to work harder to keep focused on the task, there seemed to be more of an emotional response to neutral tasks, and they put more effort into planning and making their movements. Parts of the brain that normally work together on these types of tasks were fragmented.

Researchers postulate that these effects are due to the cognitive demands of chronic pain. When you are suffering from constant pain, it demands a lot of your brainpower, leaving fewer resources for other things you need to do.  It’s also common for TMJ sufferers to experience memory problems from their condition. Chronic pain can affect short-term memory.

Neurological Problems and TMJ

TMJ can also affect the brain with neurological problems. For instance, TMJ disorder can lead to other neurological disorders such as Tourette’s syndrome, Parkinson’s Disease, Torticollis, gain disorders, and balance disorders. A study conducted in 2011 found a strong correlation between people who have TMJ disorder and these other listed neurological disorders.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

One of the best ways to protect yourself from the effects of TMJ on your entire body is by knowing which symptoms to watch for. By recognizing the symptoms, you can seek an early diagnosis and get treatment to prevent side effects. Here are the most common symptoms of TMJ disorder.

  • Frequent headaches and migraines
  • Jaw, neck, face, shoulder, and/or back pain
  • Facial swelling
  • Tinnitus
  • Pain in or around the ear
  • Clogged ears
  • Clicking or popping sound when opening or close mouth
  • Lockjaw
  • Toothaches
  • Uncomfortable bite

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, we encourage you to book an appointment at Beyond Exceptional Dentistry in Savannah, GA for an evaluation. 

Treatment Can Help Rewire Your Brain

It’s unknown how TMJ treatment may deprogram these effects, but it’s likely that getting early treatment will prevent your brain from rewiring itself. After you recognize any of the symptoms of TMJ, we encourage you to visit our Savannah TMJ dentists for an evaluation.

During your evaluation, they will start by giving you a TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) massage. TENS causes the muscles in your neck and head to relax while also stimulating the release of endorphins to deliver pain relief. After your jaw relaxes, we can determine your jaw’s optimal resting position. We use computerized jaw tracking to track irregular movement, EMG (electromyography) to measure any electrical activity in the muscles, and then use ESG (electromyography) to listen for joint noises. We will also use Tekscan to measure your bite’s force. Lastly, we will take x-rays.

With the collected data, we will create a customized TMJ treatment plan made specifically for you. The sooner we begin treatment, the less damage that can occur to your whole body.

Get TMJ Treatment in Savannah, GA

Don’t let TMJ disorder control your quality of life or impact your overall health. With treatment, you can experience a pain-free life.

If you are looking for relief from jaw pain, headaches, and other TMJ symptoms, please call (912) 234-8282 for an appointment at Beyond Exceptional Dentistry in Savannah, GA.