One symptom that many with TMD experience and yet often dismiss is dizziness—and that can be a problem in more ways than one. First, let’s look at the connection between dizziness and TMD.
How is TMD Connected to Dizziness?
There are basically two ways that your TMD can cause dizziness. They both involve the muscle tension and tightness that often accompany or even cause TMD, and they both involve the inner ear.
Time for an anatomy lesson: The inner ear essentially governs the balance of your body. It also tells the brain where the head is in relation to the rest of the body. The inner ear keeps you upright, stable, and balanced. When the inner ear gets out of whack, so does your sense of balance. There are two separate but similar ways that TMD can cause your inner ear to get out of whack and get you out of balance.
- The muscles in the front, back, and side of the neck—the sternocleidomastoid group—tell the head where it is in relation to the rest of the body. These muscles attach right behind the ear. When the muscle tension associated with your TMD acts up, the muscle spasms in the sternocleidomastoid group can cause the muscles that drain fluid from the inner ear to spasm as well. This buildup of fluid can cause the pressure in the inner ear to fluctuate, which causes the dizziness.
- The tensor veli palatine muscle attaches directly to the Eustachian tube. It allows the tube to open and close, draining fluid and keeping the air pressure in the inner ear steady. Tension in the front of the neck and jaw from your TMD pain or the spasms causing the pain can cause this muscle to spasm as well. Without fluid drainage and steady air pressure, our inner ear gets out of whack. And you get all out of balance.
TMD dizziness is no laughing matter, nor should it be ignored. No, you did not simply stand up too fast, nor did you have too much to drink last night (well, maybe you did, but that’s another matter altogether). Your dizziness and vertigo are probably a symptom of your TMD.
How Can You Relieve TMD-Associated Dizziness?
Your symptoms can and will go away with proper treatment. Some dizziness associated with TMD is relieved by use of a mouth guard that prevents you from clenching your teeth and muscles. Other times, the dizziness and vertigo with TMD can only be alleviated by prescription muscle relaxers. Sometimes regular massage or warm wraps are enough to relieve the muscle spasms causing the problem. You can try some warm compresses or towels around your shoulders and neck if you have TMD and experience dizziness.
The best way to address any symptoms associated with TMD is to see a specialist that can assess your unique situation and come to a customized solution for you. Whatever form your relief takes, don’t wait to seek help. While dizziness may be common with TMD, it need not be a part of your everyday life. If you experience dizziness or other symptoms associated with TMD, you owe it to yourself to consult a neuromuscular dentist for a thorough examination.