A simple toothache or jawbone pain hiding the start of TMJ

Posted in TMJ Disorder on Nov 2, 2020

Is it just stress? Or is it a TMJ problem?

Stress could be the #1 reason why many people don’t get early treatment for more serious underlying conditions including TMJ or nerve pain.

First, they believe that their symptoms - headaches, neck pain, jaw clenching, tight shoulders, TMJ pain, or a toothache - are simply due to stress.

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Second, they think that the pain and the problems will go away when the stress does.

Third, they base their beliefs on previous experiences of pain and problems that do go away when the stress does.

But what if, this time, they don’t?

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“Stress” is one of the most common reasons that people think that they experience TMJ pain or other problems including headaches, neck pain, jaw clenching, tight shoulders, or even a toothache.

One of the other most common things that people say is, “I thought it would go away.

The problem is that when it comes to TMJ problems, many people have been putting up with the pain or problems for months or even years (!) before they do something about it.

Usually, they visit their GP or maybe a physiotherapist who diagnoses the TMJ problem as tight muscles. 

Especially if you also have a toothache, you may also think to see a dentist, who may take an x-ray, which shows that your teeth are just fine. And the problem may simply be attributed to stress.

But what if there is something more serious going on?

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After all, if it was JUST stress, WHY DOESN’T IT GO AWAY ENTIRELY?


Is it a TMJ problem? Or is it a neck problem?

It is a very important point to emphasise: 

STRESS IS AN AMPLIFIER. It aggravates things that are already pre-existing BENEATH THE SURFACE and then PUSHES THEM ABOVE THE SURFACE.

But the stress is not what CAUSED the underlying problem in the first place. 

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When it comes to understanding what is actually CAUSING your TMJ pain or problems, it is important to consider the types of things that influence your TMJ.

The first is the position of your teeth. If your teeth are misaligned (or if they have been aligned, but not congruently with the structure of your skull), they can cause your muscles to tighten around your jaw, which can lead to lockjaw, headaches or migraines in your temples and all kinds of other neuromuscular conditions that you might never think are connected with your TMJ.

The second is the alignment of your neck: specifically the top vertebrae in your neck called the C1 (atlas) and C2 (axis). If your upper neck is misaligned or not moving properly. it can affect how the muscles of your jaw work.

Muscles contract when the nerves that control them tell them what to do.

So if there is a problem with the nerve supply to these muscles from the neck to the jaw, and problem in the upper neck may actually contribute towards TMJ problems such as clicking or grinding, popping in the jaw, a blocked ear sensation, sore muscles, and even “inner ear” problems such as a blocked ear feeling, dizziness vertigo … and also pain disorders such as trigeminal neuralgia or even fibromyalgia.

A problem with the alignment in your upper neck can also relate to a wide variety of symptoms including headaches, migraines, neck pain, shoulder pain, back pain, and other types of neurological conditions that you would never think are connected with your neck.

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The reason is that your atlas and axis protect your brainstem, which is the master control centre for your entire body. It controls and regulated every sensation and function that occurs in your body.

Because your upper neck is most flexible, it is also susceptible to injury. Even if there are no broken bones, bruises, or bleeding, many types of physical injuries can cause injury to the muscles and ligaments that support your upper neck, causing them to misalign.

Now, your body is not weak and your brain is not stupid.

So what will they try to do? Compensate!

The first place your body attempts to compensate is in muscles. When the muscles can’t compensate anymore, ligaments do the work. But when the ligaments are exhausted too, then the tension finally affects the nerves directly.

So how does stress sit into the picture?

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Stress is like a computer that is already operating at full capacity. Turn on even one extra problem, and the whole system starts to slow down.

So it is the problem that one program? Or is the problem all those other programs, and then “stress” was just the last little thing - the tip of the iceberg - that pushed you over the edge?

This is how stress is most likely to affect the TMJ, especially for people who have been dealing with chronic TMJ conditions.



Any longer than that is simply wishful thinking.

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Is it a neck problem? Or is it a health problem?

So what do you do when it comes to getting treatment for a TMJ problem?

Well, the first step is that you are here getting information.

The second step involves getting a trained professional to have a look at things for you: to get a sense of identifying the ORIGIN of your TMJ problem.

Again, it is NOT simply a matter of stress-causing TMJ pain or a TMJ problem. 

So, if you are told that “Stress is your problem,” keep looking.

The health and medical professionals who may be able to help include a GP, dentist, physiotherapist, chiropractor, massage therapist, and acupuncturist (Note: this list is not exhaustive).

Depending on the nature of your TMJ problem, they may refer you for scans that include an x-ray or CT scan of your teeth or TMJ.

For many people, these tests all come back as normal. And then they don’t know what else they can do.

It is for THESE group of people that we may be able to help.

At Atlas Health Australia, our focus is on helping people with chronic health conditions - including TMJ - find long term solutions so that they can get back to enjoying the quality of life that they desire.

Our approach focuses on the unique relationship between the alignment in your upper neck - the C1 (atlas) and C2 (axis) vertebrae - and how they affect the function of your TMJ and nerve system.

Our practice utilises a series of specific physical, neurological and diagnostic tests including 3D x-ray imaging, which helps us to see on an individualised basis if the origin of your TMJ problem is coming from your upper neck.

We also work alongside many dentists, who specialise in complex TMJ problems as well. 

You see, especially where the TMJ is concerned, there can be a lot of things that can go wrong in a very tiny area.

Therefore, it is important to be working with a qualified health professional who understands the underlying nature of TMJ issues and who is able to work as part of a healthcare team to help you achieve the best possible outcomes.


Is it a health problem? Or a health solution?

Now that you realise that stress may only be the tip of the iceberg, if you are looking for answers and a potential solution for your TMJ problem, we would be honoured to assist you.

Our practice, Atlas Health, is the premier upper cervical health centre in Brisbane and South-east Queensland.

Upper Cervical care is a special division of chiropractic that focuses specifically on the upper neck and health conditions that can occur as a result of misalignments in this key area of the body. Unlike general spinal manipulation, care is precise and does not involving any neck twisting, cracking, or popping.

Our principal doctor of chiropractic, Dr. Jeffrey Hannah, is an advanced certified instructor with the Blair Chiropractic Society. He is an international lecturer, author, and recognised leader in the field of upper cervical specific chiropractic care in Australia, New Zealand, and internationally.

ff you are experiencing a TMJ or nerve disorder and would like more information, we would like to hear from you.

We are happy to offer a complimentary 15-minute over the phone consultation to speak with Dr. Hannah so that you can discuss the details of your TMJ condition and to ask any questions you may have so that you can decide if care may be right for you.

If so, you can contact our office by sending an email through the CONTACT US or reach our office direct at 07 3188 9329.

It is our privilege to be able to offer our assistance to you.

Atlas Health Australia - “Hope, healing, and wellbeing from above-down, inside out.”



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