How is it possible that TMJ disorder can affect the endocrine system? Fasten your seatbelt for a geeky ride!
The primary soft tissue culprits in jaw tension and pain are some small, nearly inaccessible muscles at the upper back part of your mouth toward your ear and cheekbone and in a bit, on both sides, of course.
These muscles are called the lateral pterygoids. They attach at one end to the articular disc that glides between the two bones of the jaw joint, the mandible and the temporalis, when you move your jaw.
At the other end they attach to the lateral plates of the pterygoid processes of the sphenoid bone.
Now, the sphenoid bone is one of the most fascinating bones in the body. It spans the inside of your head behind your eyes and in front of your ears, with its greater wings lying under your temples. The sphenoid articulates with 11 other cranial bones. It is shaped sort of like a moth, with the moth’s legs coming down to the very back of your mouth, behind your back molars, where your lateral pterygoids attach to the sphenoid’s pterygoid plates. Maybe you see where I’m going.
At the lower parts of the sphenoid bone you have these tight jaw muscles, the lateral pterygoids, tugging the bone down — and often one side is tighter than the other. (The view above is from the top down and doesn’t show the pterygoid plates.)
At the upper part of the sphenoid bone, there is a magnificent little structure called the sella turcica, or Turkish saddle (aka the hypophyseal fossa). And guess what’s riding in the saddle? The pituitary gland!
The pituitary is about the size of a pea, and it is the master gland of the entire human body. It produces hormones and also directs other glands to produce hormones, including sex hormones, growth hormones, stress hormones, and thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism.
Here’s the connection: When the TMJs are tight or imbalanced, it can interfere with the pituitary’s orchestration of the endocrine system, resulting in stress, libido, fertility, metabolic, and/or emotional issues.
I offer a TMJ treatment that works inside the mouth to help the lateral pterygoids become more relaxed and balanced.