Vertigo & TMD

As you may recall from other blogs you have read here on my website, TMJ dysfunction (TMD) is known as “The Great Impostor” because its symptoms mimic those of many other conditions. One that we will focus on this week is Vertigo, which is a sensation of dizziness that can cause postural imbalances. In other words, your surroundings seem to be moving even though you are standing still. Read on to find out what the connection is between TMJ and dizziness; in some cases, vertigo. These spells are also known as TMJ dizzy spells.
tmj and dizziness

Balance comes from the brain integrating data from the inner ears (vestibular system) and eyes (visual system). The vestibular system also includes nerves and joints. The inner ear contains the labyrinth, which is a small structure, which is a crucial to the body’s balance. The labyrinth has fluid, which moves around as you move, and that sends messages to the brain about balance. When any of this gets disrupted, the brain can misinterpret the signals and that gives off the feeling of vertigo or dizziness.

An interesting fact about the labyrinth is that it is located in your temporal bone in your head. Your TMJ (temporomandibular joint) also attaches to the skull at the temporal bone. The TMJ may move the temporal bone just enough to move the labyrinth housed inside to be moved out of position as well. So, whenever any misalignment or inflammation occurs in the TMJ, this is how the fluid gets disrupted.

Alternatively, if any hyperactivity in the masticatory muscles (chewing muscles) is present, this can cause dysfunction of the Eustachian tube, also leading to imbalance, dizziness and vertigo. The Eustachian tube is a part of the middle ear that equalizes pressure.

Eustachian tube illustration

The following are some of the many symptoms associated with vertigo:

Head illustration

 

1. Dizziness/Lightheadedness
2. Confusion
3. Nausea/Vomiting
4. Pain in the eyes
5. Perception that objects are moving
6. Imbalance
7. Feeling of being pulled down towards the floor
8. Hot flashes
9. Light sensitivity
10. Headache/Migraine

If you have ever experienced a ride at an amusement park that goes round and round in a circle, then you are most likely familiar with this feeling. It seems like you are still moving when you get off the ride, because there is still movement within your semi-circular canals. But, your visual cues alert the body that you are standing still. This very disconnect between the signals gives your body that feeling of nausea and dizziness.

When your lower jaw (mandible) is not properly aligned to your upper jaw (maxilla), then there are certain pressures exerted on the jaw joint (TMJ). These pressures are transmitted, and in that process, the balance organs are moved out of alignment. Once misaligned, balance is naturally thrown off.

Take your pinky finger and put it inside your ear canal, and then move the jaw by opening and closing. You will be able to feel the movement of the mandible and realize how close it is to your inner ear.

tmj dizzy spells

 

Aligning (normalizing) the jaw joint often corrects the balance organs and equilibrium. Unfortunately, many people are placed on medications such as Antivert or Zofran to treat the symptoms of vertigo rather than treat the underlying problem (joint dislocation). While these medications can provide temporary relief, they will never provide a permanent solution to a joint problem.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, please call our office at 586-573-0438 to talk to Dr. Klein about a possible TMJ disorder.

References

Marchiori, Luciana Lozza de Moraes et al. “Probable Correlation between Temporomandibular Dysfunction and Vertigo in the Elderly.” International Archives of Otorhinolaryngology. 18.1 (2014): 49–53.

Chole RA, Parker WS. Tinnitus and Vertigo in Patients With Temporomandibular Disorder. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1992;118(8):817-821. doi:10.1001/archotol.1992.01880080039010

Weber, PC. Vertigo and disequilibrium: a practical guide to diagnosis and management. 1961.

Parker WS, Chole RA. Tinnitus, vertigo, and temporomandibular disorders. Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop. 1995 Feb;107(2):153-8.