The Jaw and Face

CST works as a Complementary therapy... This means that if you suspect any serious condition or are worried about your health in any way, your first visit should be to your GP! The opinions expressed below are based on my clinical experience and the experience of my patients. CST is not a replacement for dental or orthodontic treatment.
Temporomandibular Joint or TMJ

CST provides a low impact, non-invasive, relatively inexpensive and non-surgical means to work with the structures of the face and jaw. So - what can it do and in what situations is it used? A list of some of the more common situations in which CST may provide some help might include :

  • Pain in the face or jaw from more or less any cause that is not a serious medical condition
  • Clicky and popping jaw joints, or any restriction in the ability of your mouth to open
  • Problems with your occlusion (bite) that come and go
  • Neuralgia and Neuritis in the area of the face (including Trigeminal Neuralgia)
  • Pain and discomfort after tooth extractions
  • Pain and discomfort or other side effects during (or after) a course of orthodontic treatment
  • Shoulder, neck and hip pain that goes away with exercise
  • Problems with the Eustacian Tube (popping ears or pain during air flights)
  • Tightness in the face
Braces, orthodontics and facial tightness

It's quite common for Cranial practitioners to find a correlation between various assymetric twists of the shoulder, neck, spine or hips - and a history of orthodontic braces. My personal feeling is that - the fact that somebody needed orthodontic treatment in the first place means that there was already a twist or tightness in their body which caused the teeth to move abnormally. However, what seems to happen in many cases of orthodontic treatment is that the face becomes rigid. This has some implications for structural (musculoskeletal) alignment and movement in the rest of the body.

As a practitioner, what I notice is that this rigidity of the face is far more common after braces have been worn, though it does occur in other circumstances - particularly when there is chronic emotional tension. I have also seen many times how patients report feeling their face softer and more comfortable when this tightness is released. And often there are other beneficial effects on the alignment and muscular tone around the neck, spine - and surprisingly, sometimes even the knees!

Orthodontics can also sometimes be quite uncomfortable when applied. I have seen many cases where a small amount of CST not only helped the braces to feel more comfortable, but also assisted the progression of orthodontic correction. Some treatment prior to insertion and after the removal of orthodontics can also be useful.

Rising and falling

The jaw, shoulders and hips take part in a parallelogram-like arrangement that has a strong effect on the symmetry of the body and its movement. So, some people start with a jaw misalignment and end up with misaligned hips - because the hips respond to the jaw. This is termed a "falling" TMJ issue, and (all other things being equal) is characterised by the pelvis tending to be OK provided that the person takes regular exercise such as running - which stabilises the lower half of the body. On the other hand, some people have a "rising" TMJ issue, in which case the TMJ is misaligned simply because the pelvis (or shoulders) is not straight.

Clearly these two cases require completely different types of treatment. Part of the differential diagnostic approach I take is to determine which effects are primary (and so treating them will have a permanent effect) and which are secondary adaptations (so we could treat them weekly for years with very little positive long term stability being achieved).

Upper and Lower jaws

When most people think of the Jaw, they actually think of the lower jaw - the jaw bone, or mandible. The TMJ (the joint for the lower jaw) sits just forward of the ear, and rests in a hollow of bone just a few millimetres from the middle and inner ear. Therefore the position of the lower jaw (and the muscular tension around it) affect the hearing and are one cause of hearing distortions and tinnitus. The lower jaw is unusual in the body in that it is a floating joint, and when we open our mouths very wide, the jaw joint semi-dislocates. Some animals (such as snakes) fully dislocate their jaws so that they can eat.

My clincial experience is that - for most cases - it is the position of the upper jaw (the face) that determines where the lower jaw sits! In fact, the relative position of the teeth (the occlusion) is sensitive to a few hundredths of a millimeter, and the teeth, being alive, move around in their sockets. The upper jaw (Maxilla) and its associated structures is rigid in parts, but most is as thin as paper and so is almost like the crumple zone of a car. Using gentle and non-manipulative cranial techniques, it is possible to remobilise the face, which has substantial effects on the occlusion, on jaw stability and on the drainage of the face (including the Eustacian tubes and ears).

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