Head and neck pain are common in life and many of us have it so often and so regularly that it becomes part of life and we either put up with it or we do what is most commonly done and that is to take painkillers. As Mick Jagger once said we take the little yellow pill to help us through the day. Many people who do not want to put up with constant head and neck pain seek help in other health professions such as physiotherapy, chiropractors, acupuncturist or osteopaths.
They do provide help but it is not long lasting. In 80%, maybe more, of cases the primary cause of pain is from your mouth or more precisely your bite. Your mouth encompasses teeth, muscles, jaw and TMJ. Most people think that the teeth are separate from the body but this is incorrect. Your teeth are part of your mouth, which is a part of your body and it is all connected.
Many people think that all a dentist does is locate holes in your teeth, fills the hole or extracts the tooth and cleans and polishes teeth. This is true for the majority of dentists as this is the way they have been taught in university but for some dentists, such as Dr Heymann have gone beyond the boundary of university teaching. Studying further in the areas of teeth, muscles of the jaw, TMJ and cranium to become mouth doctors.
Teeth are important, the relationship of the teeth coming together known as the bite is especially important considering that our teeth come together when we swallow roughly 2000 times a day. Teeth are however only passengers in our bone (in the jaws).
The teeth are connected to the jawbone, the jawbone is connected to the skull and with in this complex structure we have the muscles in which move the lower jaw. All these components have to be in harmony. As well as chewing, teeth play a vital role in our personal presentation and well-being.
Lets talk about the jaws
Our lower jaw is connected to the skull by way of joints, this jaw joint is called the TMJ or temporomandibular joint, of which we have a left and right. Jaws cannot move by themselves, muscle action moves the lower jaw and we have sixteen pairs of muscles that move the jaw in three-dimensional movements. Upwards, downwards, left, right and front to back. All of these have to be in harmony.
This is a ball and socket joint similar to our shoulder, elbow or knee joint but the difference is that the TMJ is far more complex than these other joints. We have left and right tempero mandibular joints and the head of the mandible known as the condyle (this is the ball) is connected to the temporal bone known as the glenoid fossa(socket). In between these two bony parts is the cartilage disc, which separates the two bony components so they do not smash into each other and cause destruction. The disc, plus synovial fluid enables a frictionless movement in opening and closing of the jaw however like any joint there are things that can go wrong in side the joint itself. Unlike the knees where you can move one joint at a time, you cannot move just one jaw joint at a time, both left and right operate together so they have to be symmetrical.
If the jaws, teeth and jaw joint are not functioning correctly a wide range of symptoms result:
- Head pain
- Eye pain
- Blurred vision
- Inability to open smoothly
- Clicking /popping joints
- Ringing of the ears
- Swallowing difficulties
- Neck and shoulder problems
Many patients search for years for the cause of their chronic, persistent pain with little relief. If the cause is temporomandibular joint dysfunction, the TMJ Appliance is of great help.