Health Briefs

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A Pain in the Neck (or shoulder, or face, or ear!)

by Sherry Regiani

Headaches from TMJ/TMD

Everyone gets pain now and then. Sometimes from stress, sometimes from injury or other causes.

Physicians may offer pain meds, physical therapy or even surgery. What if your head, neck, shoulder and/or ear pain is a result of a misaligned bite?

Your temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is on each side of your face. It’s where your lower jaw connects to your skull. You can feel it move if you put your fingers in front of your ears and open and close your mouth. According to the Mayo Clinic, “TMJ disorders — a type of temporomandibular disorder or TMD — can cause pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement.”

There are 43 muscles connected and controlled by your facial nerve. It runs from your TMJ to your head, neck, shoulders and upper back. The extensive network of nerves and muscles often make it hard to find where the pain begins.

Symptoms of TMD include clenching and grinding at night or while sleeping, jaws are sore in the morning, or an odd feeling that your teeth don’t bite the same way every time you close your mouth. If you consistently need to see a chiropractor for problems that do not go away, you likely have a bite imbalance.

While there are no simple answers, try this: place a tongue depressor or thin pencil between your teeth, in front of or behind your cuspids (eye teeth). Sometimes that is enough to stop muscle spasms and bring temporary relief.

Real relief begins with proper diagnosis. Your dentist may use a type of doppler to listen to TMJ movements. Modern digital occlusal analysis, or TekScan, shows exactly wear the bite is “off” much more accurately then standard biting paper. You’ll be able to watch how your muscles function as you open, close and bite.

Learn your options. Treatment ranges from a temporary bite splint, micron-sized reshaping the biting surfaces made over a series of appointments, orthodontics or replacing some of your restorations (fillings) to bring your teeth into harmony with your muscles.
Only a dentist can treat a dental disorder, and there are dentists specially trained in this area. Learn more at: and

Sherry Regiani, SHRM-CP, is with Regiani Holistic Dental Center, located in Clarkston MI. For more information, call 248-625-5222 or visit

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