Dr. Long DDS

Whether one calls it vertigo~ dizziness or loss of equilibrium, many TMJ sufferers experience the helpless whirling sensation feeling of being seasick or unsteadiness that occurs when turning their heads too quickly or when rising from a lying down or sitting position.

Dizziness is a symptom controlled by the central nervous system. The brain receives its messages from the joints, ligaments and muscles. Many doctors have cited the traumatic malrelationships of the TMJ with ear structures that are dose in proximity as a cause of vertigo. The chewing (masticatory) muscle spasms effect all the muscles innervated by the trigeminal nerve; the tensor velipalatini muscles (soft palate) and the tensor tympani. This is why whiplash victims will frequently experience fullness in the ears due to spasm of these muscles.

Inflammation in the neck muscles is sometimes the culprit of dizziness due to spasms in the neck muscles which contain tiny organells (proprioceptors). These small receptors directly affect the central nervous system. Usually dizziness can be caused by trigger points somewhere in thesternocleidomastoid muscle; Sterno=breastbone or sternum; Cleido=collarbone or clavicle; Mastoid=the mastoid process behind the ear where the upper attachment is. Irritation in the neck muscles (from reading a book in bed, lying on pillows to watch TV) or overload in the jaw muscles will aggravate the neck muscles. An interesting point is that trigger point pain in this muscle can also mimic trigeminal neuralgia.

Once a physician or Otolaryngologist rules out a growth or other conditions that can cause dizziness, it can be helpful to have an examination for TM dysfunction. TMJ dentist and other physicians may suggest the injection of a local anesthetic into the muscles which has been shown to be an effective treatment. Many times an orthotic splint helps balance the system to relieve dizziness.