how is the TMJ (temperomandibular joint) related to shoulder problems?

Can a shoulder problem really originate from the teeth

And how can an osteopath and an equine dentist work together?


The temperomandibular joint – TMJ

Is the small joint on each side of the skull, they open and close the mouth when the horse eats and moves in 3 planes when chewing, it has a biomechanical connection with C 1-3.

In the last decade, there has been more and more focus on this little joint. strong joints, but despite the importance of function, there is very little research into how problems in this joint can affect the horse’s health. Problems in the jaw joint can manifest themselves as difficulty chewing, weight loss, headshaking, headaches and problems with the bridle. Or with lameness, anterior part syndrome or shoulder problems. Symptoms may start slowly in difficulites on the one side, suddenly becoming lame and eventually limp on one foreleg. It is treated by a veterinarian, the horse is cured and after a while the same problem arises again.

So how can a horse’s teeth be related to a shoulder problem? Or a recurrent tendon injury in one front leg? Or with headshaking? And how can this be related to problems in the collection? There is a biomechanical explanation for this, which I will try to share with readers in this article.

I had a horse in my clinic that suddenly wouldn´t turn rigth when riding. Does not bend properly and stiffens. Nothing has happened to the horse. I find a rotated skull bone and a tense jaw on one side, and I manage to treat 80% of the problem, but I recommended the horse owner to call a veterinary dentist, as my examination shows that it probably originates from the teeth. The horse owner calls a horse dentist, and it turns out that it has too high edges in the side where the jaw was tense and locked. It has not chewed properly in that side, which gives an imbalance in the whole bite function which propagates up through the system from jaw joint to throat to breathing to forelegs, and it stiffens to the same side.

The horse then walks unproblematically and has no stiffness anymore. This is a typical example of a successful collaboration between dentist and osteopath.

This is because the entire muscle / connective tissue chain is connected from teeth to forelegs and even back to the hindlegs Like a chain or a train that is connected, so is the anatomy connected in chains. The teeth are in the jaw, they are like a heavy bone on the skull, which is connected to the neck, which is connected to the front part – etc. Therefore, you can make a muscle-connective tissue chain that looks like this:


TMJ (tempero-mandibular-joint) is the name of the jaw joint in technical language. There is one on each side of the skull. One bone is the large lower jaw called the mandibula (1) It forms the joint with the cranial bone os temporal (10) – also called the temporal bone. This large joint is a very complicated joint biomechanically, as it has a double movement. It both opens, closes and rolls at the same time. So if the movement does not work properly, the horse chews unevene on one side, and this can, among other things, affect the wear and tear of the teeth and the position of the skull bones, as it is large forces that affect the skull during chewing. It has been measured that the horse affects the teeth by up to when it chews.


If there is no balance in the jaw joint, it can affect the horse’s movement pattern. And conversely, imbalances somewhere in the body can propagate all the way to the jaw joint. Because the lower jaw is a very heavy bone and the horse walks with the head hanging, the weight will have a big impact on the rest of the body if the jaw bone does not move smoothly. The jaw swings in a co-motion as the horse moves forward. Like a pendulum. If it does not do so due to blocks, it will have an impact on the whole side.

As an osteopath, I can examine and treat this, often best in collaboration with a horse dentist, as it is almost connected.

The temporal bone, shoulder blade and pelvic bone work together, therefore these structures cannot be separated, so if the horse has a crooked pelvis, one must always examine the skull to find out if it may originate from there. My experience tells me that this is the case 8 out of 10 times. That is, if you have pelvic deformities that come back after being corrected, you will probably need to look at the skull to find the cause of the pelvic deformity.

Veterinarian and equine dentist Mette Aarup and I were on a course in the horse’s jaw joint with the highly acclaimed Dutch equine osteopath Jan Vlueggen, founder of the Vlueggen Institute in Germany.

It was a 3 day course and we were excited about what he could fill in for 3 full days. It turned out to be no problem. The jaw joint is connected to the entire anterior part and the digestive system. That is digestion starts in the mouth. If the horse does not chew the food properly, it can cause stomach ulcers, which can delay the whole biochemical and biochemical process called digestion, and end up with thyroid problems, hormonal disorders and behavioral problems. So a stupid tooth can mean a whole world to a horse.

The whole system that is set in motion by chewing its food secretes a lot of enzymes that must break down the food in the stomach to send it further down into the small intestine, where it starts a new process which is dependent on the substances that have been excreted further up in the system. If you start incorrectly, the whole program falls apart. Like when you wash your car, you start by getting the car wet, then soap it in, rinse it and finally dry it. If you start upside down, it will not work and the car will not be clean.

If the jaw joint does not move harmoniously when the horse moves around with or without a rider, it changes the biomechanics all the way down to the foreleg if the jaw is locked. It can end up in a tendon problem or lameness in a front leg, which if it is recurrent can possibly be solved by finding the cause in the jaw.

As a consequence of the problems described in this article, I have established a collaboration with some equine dentist, where in some cases we see the horse together, so I can treat the horse from inside the oral cavity, which can only be done under anesthesia. It is also important to check the horse’s jaw joint after it has had a mouth lock under anesthesia, as the temporal bone can rotate due to the mouth lock, and does not always rotate back, which can create changes in movement pattern, and even in some cases be the start of headshaking. It can be quite easy to correct if it is a pure biomechanical change.

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