“It’s all hooked together”. What we mean by this is whatever happens to the jaw affects the neck, which affects the shoulders, which affects the face, etc, etc. Many of the muscles that connect the lower jaw to the face also have attachments on the bones of the cervical (neck) spine. Spasms in these muscles can cause the muscles to pull on the neck bones causing clenching and pain. It’s rare to see a clencher that doesn’t have sore neck and shoulder muscles.
What Causes Neck Pain?
In addition, changes to the neck bones can cause a change in the bite. In cases of whiplash or head trauma, however insignificant, a misalignment of the cervical bones can cause pulling on the muscles connected to the jaw. This may result in a bite problem causing bruxism or grinding, leading to further stress on the muscles and further damage to the teeth. It’s our job to figure out whether the neck is causing jaw problems or the jaw problems are causing neck problems, or whether both jaw and neck problems exist at the same time. In cases of whiplash, the sooner the problems are fixed, the less damage is done. Long standing neck problems can lead to changes in the curvature of the cervical spine which can cause chronic pain. Often we use physical therapy or chiropractic therapy to help resolve these issues. Keep in mind that if the problem stems from a jaw misalignment causing neck problems, and an attempt is made to fix the problem using only cervical therapy (chiropractic care, massage therapy, physical therapy, etc) the attempts will fail unless and until the jaw problems are addressed. This explains why multiple trips to the massage therapist and chiropractor result in only temporary reduction of pain.
On a larger scale, many patients can develop something called Myofascial Pain (not to be confused with myofacial pain). Myofascial pain involves areas in muscles that spasm creating trigger points. These areas can be both acute and chronic, active and latent. A trigger point is a hyperirritable spot in skeletal muscle that is associated with a hypersensitive palpable nodule. The spot is painful on compression and can give rise to referred pain. For instance, a trigger point in the neck muscle can cause referred pain in the ear, the temples and and jaw.
How Our Dentist in Raleigh Diagnoses Neck Pain
A trigger point in the muscles above the ear that control the position of the lower jaw can cause referred pain to upper teeth. This is why dental pain can often be misdiagnosed and mistreated. Often, hypersensitive teeth are treated with root canal therapy or extraction, only to have the pain persist because the cause of the pain is not dental but muscular. Myofascial pain is poorly understood, which results too often in under diagnosis and poor management. Patients often feel the pain in their eyes, ears, top of their head, sinuses, upper and lower front teeth, etc. So they visit their primary care physician, ENT, Neurologist, dentist, oral surgeon , etc, looking for solutions.
Trigger points can be treated with spray and stretch, injections, heat, ischemic compression and stretch, massage and stretch, electrotherapy and ultra low frequency TENS. Successfully diagnosing where the trigger points are, what they are affecting, and their origin is the key to treating the pain associated.
Come in to see our dentist in Raleigh today, and have your neck pain evaluated for jaw related issues.