If you suffer from vertigo, you may have been told many things about the cause — that it’s an inner ear problem like Meniere’s disease or labyrinthitis, that it could be tied to medication, that it could be a result of trauma or injury, or even that it’s a sign of a brain problem, like a stroke or tumor.

If you’re still hunting for the cause of your vertigo, there might be another explanation: TMJ.

woman suffering from a headache

Balance and the Inner Ear

Vertigo is usually described as feeling “off-balance” or dizzy, like the world is spinning around you. It can also come with symptoms like nausea, headache, or a ringing in the ears.

Vertigo is often attributed to inner ear issues because your inner ear is one of three systems in your body in charge of communicating information to your brain about your body’s balance. Between your eyes, your muscles and joints, and your inner ear, the brain is able to compile and compare information and determine whether or not your body is balanced. If the three inputs don’t match, your brain gets confused and you feel dizzy.

The way the inner ear specifically gauges balance is with a system of canals filled with fluid. Tiny hairs in the canals can tell your brain when the fluid is moving, and when the fluid is still. (This is why you feel dizzy after spinning in circles — the fluid is still moving, even though your body is not.) If those systems aren’t working properly, your brain might be receiving those warning signals even when you should feel balanced.

At first glance, it may not seem like TMJ would have any effect on the inner ear. But the temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to the temporal bone, which is where your inner ear systems are located. This can lead to TMJ symptoms manifesting themselves in the ear. For example, tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is a common symptom of TMJ. (Sound familiar? A ringing in the ears is a symptom that TMJ and vertigo have in common.) About half of all people with TMJ experience vertigo.

TMJ Can Put You Off-Balance

When you have TMJ, the muscles of your jaw are working against each other, not together. This results in a jaw that constantly experiencing tension, leading to a host of unpleasant symptoms from jaw pain to headaches to bruxism, and worse. Because of the proximity between the temporomandibular joint and the mechanisms of the inner ear, tension in the jaw can put pressure on the inner ear, causing it to deliver conflicting or inaccurate signals to the brain. This can make you feel off-balance, even when you’re perfectly stable.

Luckily, treatments for TMJ have been shown to often be effective at reducing or eliminating vertigo. Call (803) 781-9090 or contact Smile Columbia Dentistry online to learn more about TMJ treatments and how they can help.