woman holding onto the wall while she holds her head due to dizzinessAmong the many potential symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorders (called TMJ or TMD) is dizziness. People sometimes wonder how a jaw disorder can make you dizzy, but the answer makes sense when you know the role of the ear in maintaining balance and understand how the jaw can affect ear function. 

If you experience dizziness that your doctor isn’t able to treat, the TMJ dentists at the Michigan Head & Neck Institute can help. Please contact us today to determine whether TMJ treatment can reduce or eliminate your dizziness.

Dizziness Can Be Common in TMJ

The truth is that dizziness can be a common TMJ symptom. Just how common depends on who you ask. However, multiple studies show that between 50-60% of people with TMJ experience dizziness. Other ear-related symptoms may be even more common, with perhaps 80% of TMJ sufferers experiencing one or more ear symptoms, including:

  • Ear fullness
  • Ear pain
  • Hearing loss
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Dizziness and vertigo

Although dizziness and vertigo are among the least common ear-related symptoms, they are prevalent for people with TMJ.

How Does TMJ Cause Dizziness?

Once you understand the role of the ear in balance and the close ties between the jaw and the ear, TMJ-related dizziness makes sense, even if we don’t fully understand its mechanism. 

The brain’s balance mechanism depends on three main inputs:

  • Visual information from the eyes
  • Positional data from your body
  • Movement and orientation information from the inner ears

When these inputs agree, the body can easily maintain balance. However, when the inputs disagree, it can make you feel dizzy. 

We’re not entirely sure how TMJ causes dizziness. However, the most likely explanation is that it interferes with the information your inner ear sends. In the inner ear is the vestibular organ, also called the labyrinth. This is a series of tubes partially filled with fluid. Tiny hairs inside the tubes communicate the position and movement of the fluid to the brain, and the brain uses this data to help with balance. How TMJ interferes with information from the labyrinth is unknown, but the anatomy supports three explanations. 

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

One possible explanation for TMJ-related dizziness is eustachian tube dysfunction. The eustachian tube runs from your mouth to your ear, helping your body regulate ear pressure. When the eustachian tube isn’t functioning correctly, it can lead to pressure buildup in the ear. 

Several muscles that control the eustachian tube are linked to your jaw. We talk about the tensor tympani for its role in TMJ-related hearing problems, but also relevant is the tensor veli palatini (TVP) is also a jaw muscle that helps with chewing and other jaw functions.

When TMJ leads to eustachian tube dysfunction, the pressure buildup affects the fluid in the labyrinth. Think of what happens when you squeeze a partially filled water bottle–the level of fluid changes. When this happens in your ears, your brain gets confused because it isn’t detecting movement in other ways. 

Temporal Bone Displacement

Another potential way that TMJ could cause inaccurate messages from your inner ear is by shifting the temporal bone. The temporal bone is not just the temporo- in the temporomandibular joint, it’s also the bone that houses the inner ear. Although this bone is part of the skull, and we commonly talk about the skull being fused, it can shift its position relative to the rest. If a jaw problem leads to a shift in the temporal bone, it can cause the fluid in the labyrinth to move again, leading to messages that confuse the brain and dizziness. 

Nerve Pressure

Finally, the jaw may interfere with nerve signals from the inner ear. Although the nerves from the inner ear to the brain only have to travel a very short distance, that distance is closely crowded by the nerves, a ganglion–nerve cluster–and blood vessels. Pressure on or displacement of the temporal bone due to TMJ could put pressure on the nerves, disrupting crucial balance signals.

TMJ Treatment Can Resolve Related Dizziness

Although we’re not entirely sure of the mechanism by which TMJ causes dizziness, we are confident that TMJ treatment can resolve dizziness as well as other TMJ symptoms. 

We’ve helped many patients overcome dizziness, hearing loss, ear pain, and many other ear-related symptoms of TMJ. 

If your doctor’s treatment isn’t helping your dizziness, and you have other TMJ symptoms, you might have TMJ.

Get Relief from Dizziness

If you are currently experiencing attacks of dizziness that affect your daily life, let the Michigan Head & Neck Institute help. 

Please call (586) 573-0438 or use our online form to request an appointment at our Warren, MI, office serving the entire Detroit area.