Dental occlusion as one cause of tinnitus

Jose Luiz Villaça Avoglio
Medical Hypotheses 2019, 130: 109280
There is large support in literature linking tinnitus to dental occlusion and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD). However, there is no model to explain such a link. This hypothesis explains how the fusimotor system of the muscles innervated by the trigeminal motor nucleus is affected by inadequacies in the occlusion of the teeth that cause changes in posture and movement of the mandible. Reptile to mammal evolution shows that stomatognathic structures underwent changes related to mastication. Among several changes, there was the appearance of a new articulation between the mandible and skull: the temporomandibular joint. The bones of the old reptile joint, quadrate-articular, have detached from the mandible and are part of the middle ear bone chain. The former becomes the incus and the latter the malleus. This bone change also carried the tensor tympani and its trigeminal motor innervation. Inadequate occlusal contacts give rise to an adapted function of the mandible and the most common compensatory muscular response is hypertonia involving all mandibular muscles, including the tensor tympani. A fundamental clinical feature that demonstrates the involvement of the trigeminal fusimotor system is the characteristic pain by palpation, but no pain on the mandibular movement. Muscle pain is always felt in the dermatome innervated by the mandibular branch of the trigeminal nerve, which carries the motor fibers, reported as tightening, similar to cramp, and has regular behavior in intensity, duration and frequency. In addition, the patient has increased musculature volume, detected by palpation of certain anatomical landmarks, but with loss of functional efficiency. The neuromotor control of the mandibular movements is poor and when asked to make lateral jaw movement touching the teeth, it is common to observe that the patient moves the lips, eyes, and even turns the head in the same direction as the movement. There is also difficulty eating hard foods and talking fast. Tongue biting while chewing is frequent, meaning that these non-physiological events surpass protective reflex circuits. The report of ear pain, tinnitus, blocked ear sensation and sudden hearing loss is common in such patients, compatible with the tonic contraction of the tensor tympani. The fusimotor system hypothesis is able to explain all events related to the symptoms and helps to establish a correct diagnosis for certain types of hearing disorders.

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