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The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) in your body is a hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull. This “hinge-joint” is not only made up of muscles and bones but nerves as well. In fact, 30-40% of your body’s nerve impulses run through this joint, making it the most important joint in your body. It lets you move your jaw up and down and side to side, and is responsible for you being able to talk, yawn and chew. The problem which prevents this complicated set of bones, muscles, and ligament from functioning properly is known as Temporomandibular disorders (TMD). Unfortunately, such a disorder isn’t easy to diagnose, and if it isn’t treated on time, it can also trigger chronic diseases. By simply not being able to chew your food properly, you can be susceptible to health problems that don’t appear connected to jaw disorders such as immune dysfunction and digestive tract problems. Let us further understand the cause of such diseases and their connection with TMD.

Digestive Tract Health Problems

Since TMJ is the joint responsible for all jaw related activities, improper functioning of this joint results in improper mastication. Chewing your food correctly is the first step to proper digestion, but if you aren’t able to do so, you won’t be able to break down the food in your mouth, thus preventing the enzymes in your saliva from breaking down starches, proteins, and other such components. If that doesn’t happen, your intestine won’t be able to process the food and absorb all the necessary nutrients, which also increases the risk of food particles entering your blood stream. Such complications eventually lead to various other digestive tract problems which may severely affect your digestive system in the long run.

Immune Dysfunction

Improper mastication is the root of a majority of gastrointestinal problems, but did you know it also affects the overall immunity of your body? Your gut wall houses about 70% of the cells that make up your immunity. So, if you are unable to chew your food properly, undigested proteins can look like a foreign substance to your immune system, triggering the production of antibodies to fight it. This can directly lead to food sensitivities, inflammation, and autoimmune conditions. A compromised immune system is a ticking time bomb as it is, that coupled with stress, wears out the body, opening it up to a host of diseases, infections and various other chronic conditions like allergies.
High stress and unprocessed foods in the gut are the two common factors for TMJ which may lead directly to immune system imbalance and a lower production of natural killer cells.

Fatigue, Anxiety and Insomnia

TMJ disorder symptoms are also often overlooked in case of other chronic conditions such as fatigue, anxiety and insomnia. But how are they related? TMD affects six main energy meridians due to their proximity to the jaw; those being the stomach, small intestine, adrenal gland, gall bladder, large intestine and bladder. This can be aggravated if you were born with bite or facial distortions. Bite and facial distortions can be treated with braces but the key it to check for TMD during such instances and treat all three of them together, since these issues are basically the same. The whole mouth is at fault: tongue, teeth, arches, missing teeth, receding chin, enlarged tonsils, mouth breathing, etc. If such problems aren’t addressed in time, it can also cause health problems, such as: anxiety, dizziness, tinnitus, chronic fatigue, indigestion, headaches, insomnia, sleep apnea, heart rate disorders, immune dysfunction and more. Sleep apnea and other sleeping disorders can also be caused due to stress caused by TMD.

Treatment Options to Consider

Braces, mouth guards, corrective splints all can be good treatment options. The use of these appliances should generally be paired with simple exercises like retraining the tongue, concentrating on your chewing and swallowing habits. You can aim to reset the setting of your jaw, thus taking the pressure off that all-important Vagus Nerve. Apart from this, you can find ways to relieve your stress by signing up for stress management classes which will also help with all your sleep related issues.
Timely diagnosis and intervention, followed by TMJ treatment is crucial and can save you a lot of trouble and trauma. So, if you are suffering from TMD, make an appointment with our experienced Smile Team at Joshua Hong DDS and we will make sure relief is on the way.