What is TMJ?
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ/TMD), is a term used to describe a group of symptoms including headaches; facial pain; jaw pain; sore, chipped, broken, or worn teeth, clicking or popping in the jaw, and limited jaw movement. In many cases people suffering from TMJ/TMD report jaw popping, chronic pain in the jaw, teeth, face, head, neck, shoulders, or back, or any combination of these areas. Snoring, grinding of teeth, frequent ear infections and restricted airway are other problems associated with TMJ/TMD.
This group of symptoms is also referred to as MPD (myofascial pain dysfunction) and craniomandibular dysfunction. Who Suffers From TMJ?The majority of people suffer to a greater or lesser degree from TMJ. Although women report more jaw pain from TMJ, TMJ in men causes as much or more damage to the teeth, gums, bones and joints. Children are especially sensitive to TMJ and usually show early signs with ear infections, leaning their head on an arm, lip, cheek, or finger biting, sucking or chewing, headaches, snoring, grinding of their teeth at night, and significant chewing of gum.
TMJ stands for “temporomandibular joint,” or jaw joint. These are the small joints in front of each ear that attach the lower jaw to the skull, and happen to be the most complex joints in the entire body. The area of the face where the TMJ is located is an intricate network of bones, including the teeth, muscles, and nerves. Because of this, TMJ (dysfunction) conditions affect many areas of the body, from the top of the head in migraine-like headaches to numbness or tingling in the arms and pain in the neck or shoulders. A common symptom of a TMJ is one’s jaw “popping”, often accompanied by pain. TMJ Treatment can help.
In most cases, TMJ disorders stem from a condition called malocclusion, which means having a “bad bite”. Malocclusion means that your upper and lower teeth do not close together in the correct way—they are misaligned often as the result of accidents and trauma. This includes underbites and overbites. When the teeth are misaligned, they cannot provide the support the muscles in the face need for chewing and swallowing. These muscles are then forced into a strained position, resulting in pain throughout the face, head, arms, shoulders, and back. Although a person may have beautiful teeth or had orthodontics to line the teeth up for aesthetic reasons, the muscles and joints may not be comfortable.
Neuromuscular dentists first measure the most relaxed position of your jaw to determine the goal for normal jaw positioning. Then the dentist works to realign the bite and restore the teeth and thus the jaw and joints to their optimal position. Once the bite is realigned and the jaw is in place, pain and symptoms like jaw popping that resulted from the imbalance disappear.
How TMJ Dentists Detect, Diagnose and Treat Symptoms
How Can TMJ Be Treated?
Neuromuscular dentists first measure the most relaxed position of your jaw to determine the goal for normal jaw positioning. Then the dentist works to realign the bite and restore the teeth and thus the jaw and joints to their optimal position. Once the bite is realigned and the jaw is in place, pain that resulted from the imbalance disappears.
To put it simply, neuromuscular dentistry places the jaw into its optimal position, relieving the symptoms associated with TMJ. While traditional dentistry evaluates primarily the teeth, bones, and gums, neuromuscular dentistry works with the hard tissues and the soft tissues, muscles and nerves. Dr Buck understands that your hard and soft tissues have a complex relationship and works to make that relationship a harmonious one. Neuromuscular dentists understand the necessity for including the power source (muscles) and the controls (nerves) that create the movement, pressures, and function of the mouth. When the jaw is misaligned, both the hard and soft tissues are affected and many physiological problems can result, such as headaches, jaw pain, neck and shoulder pain, tinnitus or ringing in the ears, and clicking or popping sounds in the jaw joint. In a number of cases, these symptoms are the result of TMJ (temporomandibular joint syndrome), also referred to as TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder) or MPD (myofascial pain dysfunction). TMJ is a chronic degenerative disease that often takes years to develop. TMJ affects millions of people. People who suffer from TMJ have an imbalance in the jaw-to-skull relationship, which is caused by a bad bite (malocclusion).
Neuromuscular Dentistry serves to correct the bite and realign the jaw. First Dr. Buck determines the optimal position of the jaw by measuring the relaxed position of the head and neck muscles, and then repositions the jaw to achieve those exact measurements. Malocclusion is relatively easy to correct. Treatment options include adjusting the bite, orthotics, orthodontics, or restoring the teeth to their correct positions.Benefits:Patients of neuromuscular dentistry experience a range of benefits from decreased or eliminated pain and discomfort to better overall health and longer-lasting dental restorations. Please visit our Adult Services page to learn more about our other orthodontic treatments.
How Do Neuromuscular Dentists Diagnose and Treat Symptoms?
Neuromuscular dentists use state-of-the-art technology to determine if your symptoms are caused by malocclusion and if so, what your optimal jaw position is. The dentist uses computerized jaw tracking instruments to record jaw movement, resting position, and path of closure. Electromyography is used to measure your jaw’s muscle function in both its stressed and relaxed positions, and will also measure the jaw-to-skull relationship to see if there is a structural imbalance. Sonography is used to record jaw joint sounds to detect any abnormalities. Additionally, x-rays of the jaw may be taken to help evaluate the condition and positioning of the joint.
TMJ Treatment/TMD Treatment
Once your neuromuscular dentists has diagnosed you with TMJ, he or she can determine the best course of treatment for your specific needs. Typically TMJ treatment will follow three steps:
- Relieve muscle spasm and pain.
The immediate concern for Neuromuscular dentistss is to provide relief of your symptoms. The best way to do this is by using a technology called ULF-TENS. ULF-TENS stands for Ultra Low Frequency Transcutaneous Electrical Neural Stimulation, but don’t let this term intimidate you. Basically, ULF-TENS is a way to relax muscles with a gentle massage of the muscles. The rhythmic pulsing relaxes the muscles by increasing blood flow and pumping out waste products. ULF-TENS also helps with pain relief by stimulating the body’s production of endorphins, the body’s natural anesthetic.
- Stabilize the bite.
Often for this step a temporary device, known as an orthotic is worn over the teeth. The orthotic allows your neuromuscular dentists to make easy adjustments to the plastic without adjusting the teeth until the bite is stabilized. Once symptoms are relieved and the bite has been stabilized, your dentist will move on to the next step and permanently adjust your bite to the correct position.
- Long-term management.
There are a variety of ways to correct your bite in a more permanent way. Four of the most common of these approaches are outlined below:
Coronoplasty is smoothing and reshaping the enamel of the teeth to correct your bite. It is a simple procedure
that does not require anesthesia and can be used when the bite is only slightly misaligned.
Removable Overlay Partials
These are permanent orthotics that usually fit over the back teeth and are designed to maintain an aligned bite.
This approach involves making the teeth higher by using crowns. This permanently realigns the bite and provides structural support for the jaw.
When the teeth are healthy they may be moved to the optimal position using braces.
If you or someone you know are suffering from head, neck or jaw pain, Dr. Buck can help. Click here to request a consultation.
Undiagnosed Chronic Pain
Because TMJ pain manifests in so many ways, a temporomandibular joint disorder is difficult to diagnose. This is why so many people live with the chronic pain, using pain medication because it is the only treatment they know. TMJ can manifest as head, neck and jaw pain, which is easy to spot. However it can also cause all kinds of headaches including severe disabling ones; dizziness or vertigo; depression; anxiety; fatigue; loss of sensation or numbness in hands; sleep problems; ringing in the ears, stuffy ears and radiating pain, along with many more unusual symptoms. Over the years, Dr. Buck has treated many TMJ patients who visited doctor after doctor trying to stop the pain, but their TMJ went undiagnosed until Dr. Buck ended their chronic pain with Neuromuscular Dentistry.
There is no need to live in chronic TMJ pain. With a brief Neuromuscular exam, Dr. Buck can identify treatment to end TMJ pain. If you or someone you know suffers from TMJ pain, a consultation with Dr. Buck could lead to an amazingly positive life change.