Meniere’s disease is a condition of the inner ear that causes vertigo, ringing in the ear, pain and the feeling of pressure in the ear. Some patients even experience hearing loss. According to the Vestibular Disorders Association, Meniere’s disease affects over 615,000 Americans, with more than 45,000 new cases diagnosed each year.
Vestibular disorders affect the vestibular system. The vestibular system is made up of the inner ear and the parts of the brain that are affected by sensory information. The vestibular system controls the balance of the body. If these parts are impacted by disease or injury, disorders like Meniere’s disease can result.
Other types of vestibular disorders include positional vertigo and labyrinthitis, a condition that causes inflammation of the inner ear, resulting in dizziness, nausea and hearing loss.
Meniere’s disease is often life changing for sufferers, because the cause of the condition is unknown. Meniere’s disease sufferers often become frustrated because treatments for the condition, like taking antihistamines, only treat the symptoms but do not cure the disease.
Is Your Ear Pain Really Meniere’s Disease or Is It TMJD?
Temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJD, and Meniere’s disease have similar symptoms, like pain, ringing, buzzing or other sounds in the ear and pressure in the ear. Both TMJD and Meniere’s disease patients often experience bouts of vertigo, tension headaches and migraines.
Unlike Meniere’s disease, the cause of TMJD is known. TMJD is caused by the misalignment of the jaw, which negatively impacts the bite, the muscles of the jaw and the temporomandibular joints, also known as the TMJs.
The TMJs are the joints located on either side of the jaw, just in front of the ear. The TMJs enable the jaw to open and close, move side to side, and move back and forth.
TMJD is extremely painful and often causes inflammation in the nearby structures of the ear, leading to symptoms that mimic Meniere’s disease but may actually be signs of TMJD.
New Hope for Meniere’s Disease Sufferers
Neuromuscular dentistry is a dental specialty that is concerned with the misalignment of the jaw.
“Neuromuscular dentistry works to return the jaw to its natural position and balance the bite. When the bite is balanced, the muscles of the jaw relax and pain is reduced,” said Dr. Stefania Caracioni, D.D.S., L.V.I.F.
Caracioni is a neuromuscular dentist in Topeka, Kansas, who treats patients for their painful TMJD symptoms.
“When the jaw is out of alignment, and the bite is unbalanced, the muscles that hold the jaw in place are forced to hold it in an unnatural position,” Caracioni said. “The jaw muscles are in close proximity to the ear, so ear pain is a commonly heard complaint for sufferers of TMJD.”
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that over 10 million Americans suffer from TMJD. The exact number is unknown, as many individuals suffer with the condition but are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Many individuals spend weeks or months looking for answers from their doctor or other specialists because they believe they have an ear infection or ear problem like Meniere’s disease.
“TMJD is often called ‘The Great Imposter’ because it mimics the symptoms of many other conditions,” Caracioni said.
Common neuromuscular dental treatments for TMJD include the use of dental orthotic therapy to balance the bite and relax the muscles of the jaw. In many cases, dental orthotic treatment is combined with relaxing the affected muscles of the jaw with low-frequency electric impulses delivered by a TENS unit.
Dental researchers have found that these TMJD treatments for patients with Meniere’s disease have proven effective in relieving symptoms of the ear condition. Some study participants have found complete relief of their Meniere’s disease symptoms through neuromuscular dental treatment.
Source: Dentistry Today. TMD Treatment May Alleviate Meniere’s Disease. Dentistry Today. 25 June 2017.