Vertigo and TMJ Disorders: A Disorienting Symptom
by Dr. Scott Bolding
You’ve just finished dinner. You stand up to take care of your dishes when all of a sudden the room starts to sway. For a few brief seconds, it feels like everything is spinning. You grab onto a chair to keep yourself steady. Eventually, everything goes back to normal. Even though you’re fine now, you’re still left feeling a bit disoriented and concerned.
What you most likely just experienced is something known as vertigo. Vertigo is actually very common. In fact, about 40% of American adults experience vertigo at some point.
Vertigo isn’t usually something you need to be concerned about. Most people experience a little dizziness here and there. But if it becomes a regular occurrence it can be a symptom of an underlying condition.
There are several things that can cause vertigo, including TMJ disorders.
When most people think about TMJ disorders they think about jaw joint pain and clicking or popping sounds in the joint. But not everyone makes the connection between vertigo and TMJ disorders.
While vertigo isn’t always related to a TMJ disorder, it can be a symptom. As a symptom of TMJ disorders, we treat vertigo as we treat the underlying issue with the jaw joint. That treatment will depend on your TMJ diagnosis.
Let’s take some time to understand the relationship between TMJ disorders and vertigo. Hopefully, this information will help you determine whether or not you need to talk to someone about TMJ vertigo.
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What is a TMJ Disorder?
First, let’s talk about TMJ disorders.
A TMJ disorder is when you have problems with your jaw joint. The TMJ is the joint that connects your jaw to your skull. This joint allows you to open and close your mouth. When there is damage to the joint, or it’s misaligned, you have a TMJ disorder.
Along with vertigo, symptoms of TMJ disorders include:
- Jaw joint pain
- Clicking in the jaw joint
- Ear pain
There are a variety of things that can cause TMJ disorders, including injury and a bad bite.
What is Vertigo?
Vertigo is when you suddenly feel off balance or dizzy. Some people feel like the room is spinning. That dizzy feeling usually lasts for a few minutes and then goes away.
The most common symptoms of vertigo include:
- Feeling like spinning
- Loss of balance
- Ring in the ears
You experience vertigo when you change positions. But it can also come on when you’re standing still.
Vertigo is not something you need to worry about on its own. Most of us will have a dizzy spell here and there. However, if it happens on a regular basis it’s likely pointing to an underlying issue.
There are several different causes of vertigo including:
- BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo)
- Meniere’s Disease
- Vestibular Neuritis
A head or neck injury can also cause vertigo.
How Are Vertigo and TMJ Disorders Related?
Now let’s take a look at the connection between vertigo and TMJ disorders.
Vertigo is often a symptom of TMJ disorders that most people don’t expect. The key to this connection is in understanding the anatomy of the jaw joint and the ear.
Your TMJ is located right by your ear. This is why ear problems are also common symptoms of a TMJ disorder.
Inner ear problems cause vertigo. Your inner ear contains sensors that control your body’s balance, movement, and position. When there is a problem with these sensors it can throw you off balance and you start to feel dizzy.
These sensors are located near the temporal bone, the same bone that the TMJ is attached to. So, when there is inflammation in the jaw joint it can spread to these sensors. When they become inflamed you experience TMJ vertigo.
How to Treat TMJ Vertigo?
The best way to treat vertigo is to treat the underlying issue. This means treating your TMJ disorder will also treat any vertigo.
There are several options for treating TMJ disorders. The right treatment for you depends on your unique case. If the TMJ pain is mild, you should be fine with resting the joint, ice/heat therapy, and OTC pain medications like Tylenol. More severe cases will require either a mouth guard or even TMJ surgery.
How Do I Relieve Vertigo Now?
Of course, in the moment when you experience TMJ vertigo, you can’t wait to get to the doctor to get your balance back. There are some things you can do to get TMJ vertigo to go away quickly.
The best thing to do is to lie down and close your eyes for a bit. If you can, turn off the lights and minimize any noise. Staying hydrated and relaxed can also help prevent TMJ vertigo.
There are some exercises you can do to minimize vertigo. However, we recommend talking to a medical professional before you try these at home. A doctor can show you how to do them properly so you don’t hurt yourself.
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Learn More About TMJ Disorders
The dizziness that comes with TMJ vertigo can be disorienting and concerning. It can be stressful when it happens multiple times a week without warning.
While vertigo on its own is not usually serious, it can be a sign that there is an issue with your jaw joint. If you experience dizziness along with other symptoms of a TMJ disorder, like jaw joint pain, you should get help right away. Treating TMJ vertigo involves treating the TMJ disorder first. If you don’t treat your jaw pain, your symptoms will only get worse. Treating your jaw joint is the key to getting your balance back.
If you want to learn more about TMJ disorders, check out our TMJ Center or reach out with any questions