Additional Ways To Diagnose Your Pain Problems
Self Diagnostic Check List
Sometimes it’s possible to perform self-diagnosis in order to explain why you have head pain, and find ways to alleviate symptoms, or even cure them all together. The following information will provide some identifying characteristics for people who suffer from head pain. We encourage you to read through the information on our Migraines Explained page before reviewing this checklist.
Head pain and more serious migraines are not hard to diagnose. Once you find out what YOUR imbalance is, the cure is often quite simple. Although this website cannot cover every possible diagnosis, there are some generalized “issues” that are common in most head pain sufferers. If you may have one or more of any of the below problems you may be predisposed to jaw imbalance patterns that are causing your headaches, migraines, jaw pain, neck, and ear pain.
Normal function of the jaws and the head depend on a stable occlusion (how the jaws and teeth bite together) and the posture of your neck. If this balance is destroyed or genetically deficient, the patient can develop many symptoms. All treatment is geared toward relieving the pressure caused by the instability and providing a proper functional relationship for the jaws, head, and neck. Some of these treatment protocols may be viewed in our photo gallery. For more detailed information please order our Treatment Video!
Do You Have…
1. No signs of any problems?
Patient is having absolutely no jaw pain or muscular pain. NO signs of a TMJ or jaw problem whatsoever! These patients visit their dentist, physician, and many other specialists who cannot detect a TMJ problem due to the fact that the jaw joint exhibits no noises or signs of pain. This is very common with chronic pain patients, especially migraine sufferers. These patients are often found to have joints that have slowly “plasticized” over time due to compression. The protective disk slowly resorbed, over time, with no apparent signs of pain or problems. The joint itself adapted to the dysfunction by smoothing out the skull bone and the head of the lower jaw (the condyle). The “hyalinized” bone (smoothed bone) makes no noise or causes no pain within the joint itself because it has polished itself in an effort to protect the area. The problem, however, comes with time as the surrounding tissues, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and brain sense the dysfunction and start to cause head pain. This is the most commonly misdiagnosed and missed problem in today’s headache war. The in-depth explanation can be found on our Treatment Video!
2. Do you grind or clench your teeth?
This is one of the most common and widespread problems affecting a large segment of the population. As the teeth wear down from continuous grinding and/or clenching, so do the joints. The teeth lose their ability to support the proper jaw to jaw balance. As the teeth wear down they lose the ability to support the jaws and the jaw joints.
3. Undiagnosed tooth pain or unpleasant dental experiences?
We see a large number of patients who experience tooth aches that are in fact not tooth related. This is called “ghost tooth aches.” Often, these patients receive root canals or extractions in vain. The problem persists or gets worse. The underlying issue is neurologic and not tooth borne. Proper diagnosis requires skill and experience.
4. Chronic neck and shoulder pain?
The jaws and your neck/shoulder work in tandem. If one is out of alignment, the other cannot be balanced. Proper treatment can only be accomplished by taking into consideration all working parts. Physical therapy and chiropractic may work temporarily, but they will not provide any long term healing without functional jaw treatment.
5. History of accidents or trauma?
Whiplash or trauma can cause neck and jaw dysfunction. Often, the symptoms are not felt for months or years. Proper diagnostic tests and XRays must be performed in order to determine the extent of any injury. Treatment must be done with close cooperation with physical medicine specialists.
DISPLACEMENT OF THE LOWER JAW CAUSED BY ACCIDENT… SERIOUS BITE CHANGES CAN RESULT FROM ACCIDENTS, INCLUDING WHIPLASH!!!
6. An overbite?
The most common of all problems. The probability and severity of migraines, headaches, jaw pain, and ear pain in patients that have overbites is over 65%! The teeth simply cannot hold the jaws in the proper position and pain sets in slowly since early childhood. AN OVERBITE IS EASY TO DIAGNOSE by noticing that your lower teeth fit too far underneath your top teeth. This may be only slightly discernible, while in some patients it is so obvious that the lower teeth disappear behind the upper teeth when they bite down all the way. The problem with this relationship is that the muscles that connect the lower jaw to the skull bone overpower the lower jaw, causing it to compress the joint, skull bone, and brain tissue. For more information about functional orthodontic treatments click here.
A small lower jaw can also be a sign that the sutures (growth plates of your skull) have not developed properly and may be calcified, thereby causing a generalized “tightening” of all of the bony plates of your head. This leads to a skull bone that is non-resilient and very rigid. Healthy skull bones have flexible suture lines that allow for an overall elastic function of the skull, just the way springs and shock absorbers allow your car to go over bumps. Calcified plates indicate a struggle of the skull to maintain proper function. Think about your car working without coil springs and shock absorbers! This is what happens with many overbite patients and chronic pain sufferers. They become wheelbarrows!
7. Normal looking bite?
A normal looking bite is NOT always so normal. As you can see in this slide, the front teeth look perfect, but a shrinking effect is noted as you look towards the back teeth. This is coupled with a cross bite that leads to loss of support and compression to the arteries of the face, head, and brain.
8. An uneven bite or underbite?
An uneven bite can be a nightmare. These type of bites cause the brain to think that it needs to send signals to the muscles to clench and grind the teeth down in order to get the back teeth to touch together. A very pathologic problem that leads to pain.
CLASS III UNDERBITE (BIG LOWER JAW) also causes jaw muscle irregularities. The lower jaw becomes too powerful for the joint. The upper jaw is not strong enough to “house” and support the lower jaw.
9. Serious tooth misalignment?
An underbite with one sided crossbite. Most of the pain will be on the left side, resulting in left sided migraines and ocular (eye) pain!
10. Slanted bite?
Notice how the teeth slant from the top right of the photo to the bottom right. Severe pain on the right side for this patient, coupled with ocular migraines and inability to open her mouth.
This is an easy one! Dentures cannot support your jaws. They are plastic, inefficient excuses for the loss of your teeth. Most denture wearers eventually reach a stage of dysfunction that is hard to repair. Your jaws may no longer have any support left since you lost your natural teeth and your dentures are no more than a set of band-aids. Denture wearers are predisposed to wearing down their joints because it is practically impossible to support the jaws in the right position. Dentures are not stable enough to provide adequate jaw to jaw relationships. This leads to dysfunction within the jaw joint, over time. Furthermore, the jaw bones shrink with age and continuous pressure from the dentures. As the jaws shrink, the dentures become “looser” and more unstable. Many denture wearers reach the point where they can no longer wear their artificial teeth due to the bone loss factor. The only solution for your problem is to place implants in your jaws and find proper stabilization of your dentures, thereby improving the stability and function of your jaw joints. You will need a team of skilled dentists and oral surgeons! For more information about denture treatments click here.
12. Missing Teeth?
Loss of teeth causes loss of jaw support. Loss of jaw support puts unusual stress on the jaw joint, nerves, and blood vessels of the brain. Reconstructive methods, including implants must be used to bring back balance to the jaws and head. For more information about cosmetic and reconstructive dentistry click there.
13. History of Reconstructive Dental Work?
Changing the size and shape of teeth can make them pretty, but can also cause unusual bite circumstances. When cosmetic dental work on multiple teeth is performed there could be consequences of bite problems or changes. This can lead to head pain problems! For more information about cosmetic and reconstructive dentistry click here.
14. History of braces?
Such treatment can make major changes to your bite and the position of your jaws. Functional orthodontics is often used to treat head pain problems. At the same time, orthodontics can cause head pain problems. For more information about functional orthodontic treatments click here.
Orthodontic care straightens teeth, but the majority of orthodontic care does not address the jaw to jaw relationship or the jaw joint function. If your teeth are straight but the jaw to jaw relationship is not corrected properly, then you can develop slow lingering problems with the jaw joints.
The adjacent photo reveals the lack of orthodontic treatment for a crowded teeth condition. This teenaged patient had a history of headaches caused by this unbalanced jaw relationship.
Some studies show that 50% of patients that complete orthodontic treatment end up having jaw dysfunction and eventual head pain problems.
This is especially true for patients who have received premolar extractions. Taking out these teeth causes the jaws to shrink, consequently constricting the jaw function and compressing the jaw joints. Many migraine sufferers have received this type of care. Even if your teeth look perfectly straight, it does not mean that your jaws align properly. Many of the patients that we see look like they have Hollywood teeth. Unfortunately, what the orthodontics accomplished and what genetics gave you may not be in harmony. Don’t let a perfect smile or a perfect bite fool you!
Additional Factors to Consider:
15. Do you get frequent sinus infections and sore throats?
If you have exhausted the medications prescribed by your ENT doctor then maybe the true cause is a jaw problem. Even if you don’t have headaches or other symptoms, jaw imbalance problems can lead to sinus issues. The muscles of the jaws attach directly to the sinuses.
16. Do you have a hard time getting numb for dental procedures?
Whether for dental procedures or experiencing unusual complications after dental work, the problem may not be your dentist, but pinched nerves either in the jaw joint or between tight muscles. Forget about being comfortable and numb during dental procedures, until you treat the underlying muscle and nerve problems!
17. Do you feel tired during the day?
Sleep Apnea may be a cause of your pain. Many pain patients require a sleep study. If you’re having fatigue problems you need to get to the root of the problem and find out if you have a constricted airway (snoring, breathing difficulty, asthma, sleep apnea, etc.) or a pain induced narcolepsy. Sleep apnea can be a major contributing factor behind many pain issues discussed here. Additionally, many health issues can be directly attributed to Sleep Apnea. Click on this link for more info.
18. Have you been diagnosed with depression?
It does not take a long time for chronic pain patients to develop psychological or even psychiatric problems. Learning to deal with the pain may be more than the human body can tolerate. Remember: the trigeminal nerve accounts for over 50% of your brain’s processing. The jaw joint houses over 25% of all of your body’s nerve impulses and over 40% of the nervous impulses of your head. The trigeminal nerve is fully responsible for the regulation of blood flow of your brain’s own blood vessels. Compress this nerve alone and you have some serious repercussions. Include a few more of the nerves associated with the jaws and you can have some debilitating effects. It’s not in your head! It is in your jaws! Again, many people have no joint noises or pain within the TMJ. Why are there so many unexplainable symptoms, ranging from depression to chronic pain if nobody can find anything wrong? The answer is quite simple: the skull bone has only 1/16th of an inch of protective bone covering the jaw joint. Yes, there is very little bone keeping the condyle (head of the lower jaw) from entering the brain tissue. As the joint becomes dysfunctional (with or without pain), the brain starts to sense the frequent pounding/beating in this area, since there inadequate bone protection. As the joint loses most of its protective barrier and the brain becomes exposed to the constant beating of the lower jaw… Pain worsens! Unfortunately, nobody can get to the root of the problem because the symptoms and signs of the dysfunction are not readily apparent and observable.
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