TMJ and Systemic Health:
The Missing Link

Posted on October 1, 2015 by Dr. Jennings

The Question

Is how can the bite possibly affect so many health conditions. This is the response I sent today:

I think the clearest term to use for what I am about to share is “craniomandibular orthopedics (CMO)”. The main organization that is focused on this issue is International College of Cranio-mandibular Orthopedics (

The Effect of CMO on Health

Has been known since the 1930s at least (Willey Mayes, DDS Albuquerque, NM). It is told by many that John F. Kennedy was helped immensely by Willey Mayes and Janet Travel, M.D. (trigger point therapy) and that he wore a splint for much of his life to address his back pain and other conditions.

There are many research articles showing that people with bite issues have very high medical utilization rates (7 in my files). (Curiously I have never heard a single person mention the idea of looking at the bite on patients having broad medical complaints) It is my belief and clinical experience that the primary mechanism by which stressed bites impact health is by way of increased trigeminal nerve tonicity, which leads to elevated substance P (trigeminal nerve has on average 100 times more dense “C fibers” than any other nerve).

Other Known Mechanisms

Exist that could account for bite impact on health: jaw position influence on head posture, interaction of trigeminal nerve and upper cervical nerves (both go to same nucleus in brain (i.e. upper cervical is primary basis of chiropractic systemic theories), trigeminal vagal reflex, trigeminal vascular system (influence of trigeminal on brain blood flow), trigeminal reticular thalamic track (ascending sensory signal modulated by trigeminal nerve=why bite the bullet works), trigeminal influence on reticular activating system (ADD, ADHD, sleep disturbances), trigeminal proprioceptors influence on sympathetic nucleus in brain (dysautonomia, anxiety disorders), second-order trigeminal proprioceptors influence on reticular formation (impacts sensory processing=movement disorders, cognition, diabetes, hyper and hypo conditions==leads to loss of homeostasis). There are more

But substance P is the main one: a compound that few doctors know about. Discovered in 1931, and has been researched extensively since 1980. It is in fact a neuropeptide, a type of neurotransmitter that does not have a reuptake mechanism. So when secreted, in lingers in the body and has endocrine-like effects.

Its Primary Effect

Is that it opens up cell membranes, leading to loss of cell potential. This causes the cell to become hypersensitized (fibromyalgia, seizures, hyperacusis, photophobia, etc.) This allows viruses to invade cells (HIV), bacteria (Lyme disease), and calcium influx (cancer, chronic fatigue), as well as the insides to leak out (inflammation, leaky gut). The scary thought here is that long-term elevation may be a major factor in many types of cancer.

Substance P is a known major modulator of bone metabolism (osteoporosis), stem cell differentiation (anemia, leukemia), neurocrine modulation (hypothyroidism, estrogen dominance, growth hormone imbalance), and movement modulation (Tourette’s, dystonia, Parkinson’s, tics, restless leg, gait disorders).

Substance P

Is a known major factor in drug addiction, alcoholism, depression, anxiety disorders, etc. Substance P is known by researchers to be the primary mover in nausea, vomiting, migraine, asthma, allergies, and most skin disorders. I have a patient with severe peanut allergy that I truly believe I can reverse by the time I have completed his treatment.

Conceptionally, in a simplistic model, substance P is the most primordial sensory system in the body, and all body functions rely on it foundationally. So when its levels are off, most systems in the body go awry. It impacts cell function dramatically, the primary functioning unit in the body.

Dwight Jennings, DDS

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TMJ California