TMJ and the Movement of All 29 Cranial Bones—An Entirely New Paradigm
In the world of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) treatment, there are many different approaches, each meeting with varying degrees of success. Almost all TMJ treatment is based on the assumption that the skull is solid, the suture joints are closed and that the only moving bone in the skull is the jaw bone and the tiny bones in the ear whose vibrations allow for hearing.
However, from the medical field of Cranial Osteopathy, we know that all 29 bones of the head move with a fluid motion of the cerebrospinal fluid, bathing the brain and continuing through the spinal cord all the way to the tailbone (sacrum). In fact, all of the entire body connective tissue (fascia) and the body skeletal system are interconnected like an intricate pulley system through which this motion can be detected. If there have been traumas or injuries, there can be a distortion in this soft tissue “body glove” that can affect the function of muscles, blood flow and nerve signaling, as well as many other body systems. This is similar to having a kink in a water hose. These restricted areas exist in the connective tissue like layers of an onion, even after the original injury has healed, which can create pain and compensations in movement and function anywhere in the body.
In the fields of structural and manual medicine, we know that all spinal segments affect each other in an “as above, so below” relationship. For example, if there is an imbalance at the cranial base of the skull, we can usually find an imbalance of the level of the hips. Level hips are foundational for a properly aligned spine and a level cranial base. All of this is directly influenced by the jaw’s TMJ position. A restricted cranial base impinges on the vagus nerve, the longest of the cranial nerves, which carries parasympathetic nerve signaling to the heart, lungs, diaphragm and digestive system.
TMJ has often been referred to as “the Great Masquerader” because it affects so many areas and functions of the body, with seemingly unrelated symptoms. These symptoms can drive sufferers from medical doctors to specialists in search of relief. Most people never think to contact a dentist, since the symptoms masquerade as so many other complaints that seem primarily medical in nature. Indeed, the TMJ is a body joint, and by definition, a medical issue. But because of how the teeth and bite define the positioning of this joint and function, it often requires dental support or attention.
With this in mind, when choosing a dentist to help guide one’s TMJ to balance, the best choice is a practitioner who understands the movement of all cranial bones and works from a holistic perspective to create full body/jaw alignment.