The Cause of Vertigo

Our balance system is a remarkable achievement. It depends on three different inputs to work properly: information from our inner ear, our vision, and our body’s own sense of its position and motion relative to itself (proprioception). When these three inputs are in harmony, we can get balance. When these are not in harmony, we experience dizziness. When we are unable to get them in harmony, it is often called vertigo.

The most common cause of problems leading to vertigo is vestibular system in our inner ear. This is the organ responsible for most of our balance (perhaps 60% of the inputs come from the inner ear). Inside the inner ear is a structure called the labyrinth, which is three bony tubes partly filled with fluid. Our body uses these tubes to tell the position of our head by sensing the position of the fluid using tiny hairs in the tubes. The position of the fluid tells the angle of the head the way a bubble inside a carpenter’s level does, only think of three different bubbles in levels at three different angles. If the fluid isn’t free to move in the tubes or if something is interfering with information from this system, it’s more likely that we will suffer vertigo.

How TMJ Can Cause Vertigo

We’re not entirely clear about the connection between vertigo and TMJ. Like tinnitus, it’s a bit of a mystery. But we know there are two pretty good mechanisms that could be the link between these disorders. First, the vestibular system is located inside the temporal bone, which is the temporo- part of the temporomandibular joint. It is thought that an excess of pressure or vibration on the temporal bone could disrupt the vestibular system, resulting in balance problems. This pressure could also conceivably disturb the nerve that carries information from the vestibular system, resulting in distorted signals to the brain.

Another possibility is a disorder of the tensor tympani muscle. This muscle of the middle ear has many roles, mostly in dampening sound that enters the ear so that it doesn’t damage the delicate organs of the inner ear. The tensor tympani is, developmentally, a jaw muscle. It shares nerves with our chewing muscles, and it has been demonstrated that sometimes it responds to commands that go to the jaw muscles. It’s possible that TMJ results in a tensor tympani dysfunction that could cause ear symptoms like tinnitus or vertigo.

TMJ Treatment Helps People with Vertigo

Whatever the cause, we know that people with vertigo who undergo TMJ treatment often experience partial or total relief. It’s not a universally successful treatment, but it works for many people who are not getting relief from other vertigo treatments.

To learn whether TMJ might be to blame for your vertigo or chronic dizziness in Denver, please contact the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado in Denver by calling (303) 691-0267.