Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which connects your jaw to your skull, helps accomplish essential tasks, like speaking, chewing, and swallowing. When something goes wrong with your TMJ, you may experience some painful or uncomfortable symptoms. Dizziness is one symptom of temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) in the joint or surrounding area that can cause concern. Learn about the relationship between TMD and dizziness and how to stop it.
Can Your TMJ Cause Dizziness?
Patients diagnosed with a TMJ disorder (TMD) may experience dizziness or an uncomfortable whirling sensation called vertigo. Classic vertigo symptoms also include:
- Mental disorientation
- Nausea and vomiting in intense situations
- The sensation that objects are moving
- Feeling of falling
- Difficulty balancing
These symptoms connect to the vestibular system, which includes the parts of the inner ear and nervous system that help control balance and eye movements. 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 brain's centers called vestibular nuclei, which then notify the eye muscles, arms and legs to make adjustments needed to remain upright and balanced.
When these signals are hindered or transmitted inaccurately, the body's adjustments are inadequate and result in difficulty balancing. Although the connection between TMDs and otological symptoms like vertigo is not yet fully understood, some explain the correlation by the anatomical and structural proximity to the middle and inner ear. The TMJ region's inflammation could affect the vestibular nuclei and interrupt the signals, putting patients with TMD off-balance.
The exact causes of your TMJ dysfunction — or TMD — are often tricky to identify unless you have an apparent injury or trauma to the jaw. Start by making a list of all your symptoms to take with you to your primary care physician or dental professional. This list will help the medical practitioner determine whether TMD 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
The medical practitioner will examine your jaw, the joint, and surrounding muscles to identify pain and listen for sounds while moving the joint. X-rays are not usually needed unless the practitioner suspects an underlying issue could be affecting your jaw, such as arthritis.
Unless you are experiencing a lot of pain, try some self-care strategies at home to reduce your dizziness. Start by addressing any TMJ pain or problems directly, such as applying a heat or ice pack to the affected jaw area at intervals. Rest the joint by eating soft foods and avoiding extreme movements, such as chewing gum, yawning widely, or talking loudly. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can also decrease the inflammation, while relaxing and avoiding stress may reduce dizziness. OTC medications also exist to help specifically with vertigo or dizziness.
At worst, your TMJ disorder and dizziness put you at risk of falling and sustaining injuries while you're off-balance. Beyond that, the dizziness is merely a symptom. Once your physician or dentist identifies the cause of your TMD, they can work together to treat the condition and all of its symptoms.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.