Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder causes a variety of symptoms, many of which are unexpected. TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint, while TMD describes temporomandibular dysfunction in the joint or surrounding area. Dizziness is a sign of TMD that may leave you concerned that it may be caused by a serious condition.
TMD and Vertigo
There is a relationship between TMJ and dizziness, and TMD patients may experience “an uncomfortable whirling sensation,” according to The TMJ Association. This is also one of the classic symptoms of vertigo and might be accompanied by some or all of these symptoms:
- Mental disorientation
- Nausea and vomiting (in intense situations)
- The sensation that objects are moving
- Feeling of falling
- Difficulty balancing
These are signs of vestibular disorders that may affect either the organs of the inner ear or the central nervous system, both of which help you to maintain balance, according to the Vestibular Disorders Association.
Cause of Dizziness
The inner ear contains sensors that monitor your physical position in space and your body’s response to gravity. These sensors transmit signals to the centres of the brain called the vestibular nuclei, which notify the eye muscles, arms and legs to make the adjustments needed to remain upright and balanced. When these signals are hindered in any way or transmitted inaccurately, the adjustments the body makes are inadequate, resulting in difficulty balancing. A TMJ dysfunction is often accompanied by inflammation of the vestibular nucleus area, and research published by Neuroscience Letters shows this causes a close neural connection between them.
Unless you are in a lot of pain, it’s worth trying some self-care at home to see if you can reduce your dizziness. Methods such as applying a heat or ice pack to the affected jaw area at intervals may ease symptoms. Rest the joint by eating soft foods and avoiding extreme movements, such as chewing gum, yawning widely or talking loudly. Over-the-counter medications are useful for decreasing the inflammation, and relaxing and avoiding stress also helps reduce dizziness.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The exact causes of TMD are often difficult to pinpoint unless you have a clear injury or trauma to the jaw. Start by identifying all your symptoms, and make a list that you can take with you to your doctor or dentist. This will help the medical professional determine whether TMJ is the cause of your dizziness. Other signs you might have TMD include:
- Pain and tenderness
- A clicking sound just in front of your ears where the condyles are situated
- Popping or grating sounds when you move the jaw
- Difficulty opening and closing your jaw
You might also experience morning headaches, tinnitus, which is a ringing sound in your ear, or frequent blinking of the eyelids, explains the Calm Clinic.
Your medical practitioner will examine your jaw, the joint and surrounding muscles to identify pain and listen for sounds during movement of the joint.
The risk you face with TMJ and dizziness is the chance of falling and sustaining injuries while you’re off-balance. Beyond that, the dizziness is merely a symptom and once the reason for your TMD is identified, your doctor will hopefully be able to treat the condition and all its symptoms.