WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
Your dentist, oral surgeon, orthodontist or physician can provide, at least, a screening for the existence and extent of TMJ dysfunction. To coordinate a complete plan of treatment, we may consult with other dental specialists, physicians, or psychologist. A comprehensive examination can be provided by a facility such as ours.
The usual evaluation of the TMJ involves a complete oral examination. We check for tenderness in the muscles and try to detect any sounds made by the joints during opening. The jaw is evaluated for range of motion, deviation to one side during opening, and any discrepancy in occlusion (bite). General skeletal alignment is also assessed.
Following a thorough examination, if indicated, a complete radiographic examination with cone beam CT imaging is the next step as the standard of care. This imaging allows us to see actual pictures of the joint components and their relative state of health. Only those tests necessary to complete a diagnosis and treatment plan will be used.
Because tension sometimes plays a part in causing TMJ disorders, we may also want to know how things are going for you on the job, with your family, and other potentially stressful circumstances.
The temporomandibular joint, or jaw joint, is the most unique joint in the entire body. It is actually two joints in one. Since we have two jaw joints, one on each side of the head, which are joined together by the lower jaw, it is truly a double-double joint. The two temporomandibular joints can differ in size, shape and, even, in function.
What is TMJ dysfunction?
For reasons that vary from patient to patient, one or both temporomandibular joints may fail to move properly. This relative common disorder is termed TMJ Dysfunction.
Who is affected by TMJ dysfunction?
Anyone of any age can be afflicted with TMJ dysfunction, but the condition seems more likely to occur as a person ages. It usually progresses into a more serious problem, if left untreated. It appears to be more common in women than men. Individuals suffering from all forms of arthritis are also more likely to exhibit TMJ symptoms.
What type of treatment will be necessary?
Treatment for TMJ varies from simple measures to extensive therapy.
Sometimes, the most important treatments are things you can do for yourself: physical therapy, exercises, nutrient therapy, and the use of stress reduction techniques. We may choose to start treatment with some of these approaches or use them in combination with a more traditional treatment plan.
The most common treatment is the repositioning appliance or splint, which is used to change a patient’s occlusion (bite) and jaw posture and help the TMJ function correctly.
Physiotherapy modalities are often required to return the muscles to normal comfort and function. These might include most heat, ultrasound, trancutaneous electro-neural stimulation (TENS) or electro-galvanic stimulation (EGS).
If these conservative treatments are not sufficient, we may recommend evaluation by other practitioners.
An orderly, step-by-step evaluation and treatment plan is established to provide the most effective care for the patient.
Where do I start?
A thorough evaluation, diagnosis and consultation are the building blocks for successful treatment.
What are the symptoms of TMJ dysfunction?
Each affected individual may experience one or different combinations of these common symptoms.
- Pain of varying intensity around one or both ears, in the temples or in the neck.
- Popping or grating sensations in the joint during movement.
- Restrictions of normal opening and jaw movements.
- Severe or recurring headaches.
- Inability to close the teeth together without pain, dislocation of the jaw, or locking of the jaw.
- Occasional hearing loss or pain in the ears.
- Dizziness and ringing ears.
When pain from stress to the jaw muscles occurs, the condition is called Myofascial pain syndrome.
What causes TMJ Dysfunction?
Research has shown that many factors may lead to the problem. TMJ dysfunction can occur by itself or be a part of a more complex problem. We believe that there is usually more than one factor responsible for TMJ dysfunction. Some of the causes may be:
- Trauma, such as an automobile accident
- Neuromuscular imbalances
- Inflammation of the joint
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Osteoarthritis (degenerative)
- Clenching and grinding of teeth
- Improper occlusion (bite)
- Nervous habits
- Psychological factors, including stress