Situated in front of the ear where the lower jaw and skull meet, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) hinge conducts 30-40% of your body’s nerve impulses, making it the most important joint you possess. It allows you to move your jaw side to side and up and down, and it determines your ability to chew, yawn, and talk. Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) prevent the TMJ from working properly. Unfortunately, diagnosis of these disorders is challenging, and it can lead to chronic illness if not treated promptly. Individuals with untreated TMD can be vulnerable to health problems that do not appear to be related to jaw disorders, like immune dysfunction and problems with the digestive tract. Here are some common chronic illnesses and their relationship to TMD.
Fatigue, Anxiety, and Sleep Disorders
TMJ disorder symptoms tend to be overlooked in patients dealing with other chronic illnesses like insomnia, anxiety, and fatigue. What is the relation? TMD affects six major energy meridians in close proximity to the jaw: the stomach, small intestine, gall bladder, large intestine, adrenal gland, and bladder. This is made worse for those born with facial or bite distortions, which can be treated with braces. However, medical providers should also check for TMD and treat all three disorders together. If treatment for these issues is not administered in a timely manner, health issues such as anxiety, tinnitus, dizziness, headaches, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, indigestion, insomnia, sleep apnea, immune dysfunction, heart rate abnormalities, and more can occur.
Given that TMJ is the joint in charge of all jaw-related functions, poor TMJ function leads to mastication difficulties. Chewing your food correctly is the first step toward good digestion, but if you are unable to do so, you will not be able to break down the food in your mouth, preventing the enzymes in your saliva from breaking down starch and other components. This will leave your intestines unable to digest the food and absorb all of the essential nutrients, increasing the chance of food particles entering your bloodstream. These are complications that could eventually lead to a variety of additional digestive tract issues, which can have a negative long-term impact on your digestive system.
A Weakened Immune System
Most gastrointestinal issues are the result of improper mastication, which also affects your body’s overall immunity. Approximately 70% of the cells that make up your immunity are housed in your gut wall. As a result, the inability to chew properly may cause your immune system to regard undigested proteins as foreign objects, producing antibodies to combat them. This can result in inflammation, food sensitivities, and autoimmune diseases. A weakened immune system is a ticking time bomb that, when combined with stress, exposes the body to a slew of infections, diseases, and chronic conditions such as allergies. High stress and unprocessed foods in the stomach can lead to immune system imbalance and declining killer cell production.
TMD has been associated with cardiac arrhythmia. Characteristics of arrhythmia include irregular or abnormally fast or slow heartbeats. Arrhythmias, while often innocuous, can be fatal. Dizziness, fainting, chest pain, fatigue, and cardiac arrest are some common symptoms.