The Role of the TMJ
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is an integral part of whole body balance and physiology. Therefore, maximizing TMJ comfort is key to Natural Balance Dentistry® .
The TMJ is the “Master Link” in the chain of the horses’ balance. It is a powerful convergence point for many acupuncture meridians. Also, it is the closest joint in the body to the brain and brainstem so harmonizing the proprioceptors in the jaw can have huge effects on the entire body.
Muscle balance throughout the body is modified and controlled through the TMJ and the function of its suspending muscles. Pathology in the horse’s mouth can impact the TMJ and create cascading changes down the line. The reverse can also be seen, where problems elsewhere in the body stress the TMJ, and cause unwanted tooth pathology.
Proprioception and the Role of the TMJ
The TMJ is highly involved in proprioception. Proprioception
simply means one’s internal sense of self. The proprioceptive nervous system has a direct link to the brain. It involves giving the body information (via sensory feedback) about what is happening internally within the body. These sensory nerve endings send impulses to the brain giving it information on body position, muscle tension, joint activity, movement and equilibrium. Minor imbalances in the mouth transmit through
the spinal and skeletal system , creating imbalance somewhere else as the body tries to compensate. When the mouth is out of balance, the horse is out of balance and tries to compensate elsewhere.
Compensations can result in muscles being strained, joints being over stressed and are major factors in dysfunction and pain. To restore proper oral bio-mechanics, Natural Balance Dentistry® focuses on realignments to remove oral interferences thus allowing for fluid motion and optimal function. This results in the proper transmission and reception of neurological signals to the horse's body. For more information, please read this article on natural balance dentistry and the stomatognathic system
"Natural balance in the mouth and the jaws ability to move forward, backward, left and right, up and down, is equal to the whole body's ability to do the same. The jaws range of motion dictates the necks range of motion, which in turn dictates muscle mass in the rest of the body." -- Spencer LaFlure
Natural Balance Dentistry® and the TMJ
Natural Balance Dentistry® is a unique model. The end result is to maximize the surface to surface contact of the teeth resulting in centric occlusion to restore bio mechanical function and guidance to the temporomandibular joint anatomically correct to that individual. “Less is more” philosophy achieves maximum results.
Natural Balance Dentistry® involves not only removing sharp points from the teeth, but also looking at the entire neuromuscular response to the pathologies that are present in the mouth. An interference in the mouth, whether it be uneven wear on the teeth, over growth or excessive enamel will effect the chewing action of the horse. This makes it not only uncomfortable for the horse, but will cause pressure and rotation to the TMJ. The temporal bone connects to the TMJ and runs across the forehead and to the mandible (jaw). The TMJ is an articular disc that separates the hinge joint of the jaw and the upper sliding joint. It is supported by many ligaments, muscles and tendons.
Therefore, the proper function of the TMJ Mechanism plays an important role in the whole function of the horse, including leads, gaits, balance and equilibrium.