As silly as it may sound, the song “Dem Bones” was right. Everything is connected. When one part of your body is out of alignment, your entire body is negatively affected. Your jaw is no exception, and a misaligned jaw can have a ripple effect that changes your posture and throws your entire body off balance.
How Your Jaw Impacts Your Balance
A misaligned jaw affects more than just your bite. When your jaw is out of balance it has an impact on:
- Muscles – A misaligned jaw increases muscle strain throughout your face, head, neck, and shoulders. This increased strain is responsible for a host of symptoms such as headaches, backaches, ear ringing, and vertigo.
- Nerves – When your muscles are strained, they can pinch nerves. The nerves in your face do not operate separately from the nerves throughout your entire body. A pinched nerve in your face or jaw can lead to numbness and tingling throughout your entire torso. More importantly, critical nerves that govern balance might be impacted.
- Posture – A misaligned jaw will change the posture of your head. This, in turn, will place undue stress on your spine. This strain on your spine impacts your entire posture and can lead to serious pain, additional nerve disruption, increased muscle strain, and affect your entire body.
Depending on your individual condition, treatment for symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) may be able to bring your jaw—and your body—back into balance. It is best to treat your TMJ before posture issues become a problem, helping keep your body balanced and upright for years to come.
Research Confirms the Connection
Research confirms the connection between your jaw, your balance, and your posture. Several significant studies show that your jaw position and the way your teeth fit together can affect your balance and posture.
In two of these studies, researchers compared the stability of individuals standing on foam. They measured stability by looking at the velocity of the individuals’ center of gravity (COG). The slower the COG moved, the more stable the individual. The first study compared relaxed jaw, open jaw, and active chewing. In this study, researchers found that chewing made people more stable. The second study looked at relaxed jaw, open jaw, and clenched jaw. This study showed that clenching the jaw helped make people more stable.
But a vital piece is missing here: how does this relate to the teeth? Fortunately, two other studies looked at the relationship between occlusion–how your teeth fit together–and balance. Researchers in Spain and Australia conducted parallel experiments looking at this question. They looked at classified malocclusions, such as crossbite, gaps between teeth, crowded teeth, and missing teeth. First, they demonstrated that these types of tooth problems were linked to poor stability. Then they showed that repositioning the jaw in a neutral position fixed the problem. The impact was most significant under dynamic conditions.
Researchers in these studies focused on the role of nerves in maintaining the connection. They pointed to a reciprocal influence between the trigeminal nerve (which controls chewing) and the vestibular nerve (which controls balance). When the jaw is out of position, it could negatively impact the trigeminal nerve, which impacts the vestibular nerve.
If you live in or around Burke, Fairfax, or Fairfax Station, Virginia, and have questions about jaw alignment or TMJ, please call the office of neuromuscular dentist Dr. Pamela Marzban at 703-323-8200 to schedule a consultation today.