Your temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is the joint in front of your ear where the upper and lower jaws meet, providing for movement and function for chewing, speaking, and facial expression. The term TMJ is frequently used to refer to a common disorder involving these joints and the muscles that connect to the jaws.
Symptoms of TMJ disorder are wide ranging and can vary significantly from one person to the next. Keep in mind that the only way to accurately diagnose TMJ disorder is through a careful evaluation performed by a dentist who has undergone specific training in the treatment of TMJ disorders.
Many of our patients have told us that they have suffered from symptoms for months and even years, without realizing what was causing their problems. Because the symptoms of TMJ vary so greatly from one person to another, it can be a difficult condition to diagnose properly. Even among patients who have sought medical treatment for their symptoms, many end up with an incorrect diagnosis or have been given prescription medications to ease their symptoms. Many receive no diagnosis at all, and are left to treat the symptoms on their own, or to address only the symptoms, rather than the cause of their problems.
Many patients suffering from TMJ related problems usually visit their primary care physician who may refer to neurologic or ENT specialists. Most times this condition is not properly diagnosed leading to unnecessary prescriptions or no diagnosis at all which leaves the patient in the same state of suffering. The most accurate tools for diagnosing TMD are computer imaging systems that allow your dentist to track and evaluate the function of your jaw and facial muscles during normal use.
Our LVI-trained neuromuscular dentists use a Myotronics K-7 computer imaging system utilizing jaw tracking, EMG (electromyography), and joint sonography to record and evaluate the movement of your jaw and your facial muscle function. This valuable diagnostic tool helps determine where your problem is located, and how to best go about treating your condition and preventing further damage. Learn how our comprehensive diagnostic process can benefit your dental health and overall well-being by calling 781-843-7905 to arrange a consultation with Pinnacle Dental Aesthetics today.
What Causes a TMJ Disorder?
Muscle or myofascial disorders cause pain in the facial or neck muscles that control jaw movement. This condition causes soreness and pain, and can contribute to headaches, migraines, pinched nerves and neck aches.
Joint derangement disorders are caused by displacement or dislocation of the structures within the joint. This can be caused by injury, or excessive repetitive motions including compulsive tooth grinding or clenching, or other unusual movement of the jaw.
Degenerative joint disorders are characterized by deterioration of the cartilage within the TMJ. This cartilage normally absorbs shock and impact to the TMJ, so when this cartilage begins to deteriorate, it can result in pain and discomfort caused by bones rubbing together.
Causes of TMJ Dysfunction
TMJ disorders can result from any of a number of causes, including:
- Misalignment of the teeth (poor bite)
- Tooth wear
- Traumatic injury
- Tooth grinding, or bruxism
- Missing teeth
- Muscle tension or spasm in the head or neck area
Regardless of the cause, however, TMJ disorder is a serious condition that affects the lives of its sufferers in many ways.
What Are the Symptoms of TMJ disorder?
Unfortunately, with TMJ disorder, the causes of the condition are often made worse by the condition itself. That is, while such things as tooth grinding and excessive tooth wear can often cause the jaw to become misaligned, the misalignment of the jaw causes these conditions to get worse rather than better.
Some of the more common symptoms and effects of TMJ disorder include:
- Headaches or migraines
- Jaw pain and soreness
- Tooth grinding, or bruxism, particularly during sleep
- Clicking and popping of the jaw
- Accelerated tooth wear and damage
- Neck pain
- Limited mouth opening
- Ringing in the ears
- Loose or sensitive teeth
- Tingling in the fingertips
- Chronic ear congestion
How Is TMJ Disorder Diagnosed?
To diagnose TMJ problems, we evaluate a thorough history of your symptoms, perform a comprehensive neuromuscular examination and we will carefully evaluate your bite and the function of your jaw using the latest precision computer systems to track the movement of your jaw and relate that movement to your muscle function using electromyography (EMG). We also evaluate pathologic sounds within the jaw joints using Sonography. Radiographic data such as Tomograms and MRI is also diagnostically useful.
We will use these findings to determine whether TMJ disorder is your problem, and to determine how best to correct it.
What Treatments Are Available?
Treatment of TMJ disorders is in the realm of what is called neuromuscular dentistry. It is an approach that takes into account the interactive physiologic relationship of the jaw joints and muscles of the head and neck as well as the relationship of the lower jaw to the upper jaw as dictated by the occlusion of the teeth (bite relationship).
We offer a variety of treatments for TMJ disorders, depending on the specific cause and severity of the problem. Less severe cases may only require management of the symptoms whereas more severe cases may require treatment of the causes of the TMJ disorder. We will work with you to insure that your treatment is appropriate for your situation, so that you can finally live your life free of the pain and discomfort of TMJ disorder.
Some common options are:
- A plastic appliance worn during sleep to prevent damage to the teeth as a result of grinding or clenching.
- A plastic appliance called an orthotic which is worn to align the bite and help keep jaw muscles in a relaxed and comfortable state.
- Recontouring the surface of some of the teeth to allow the teeth to bite together more evenly and uniformly.
- Orthodontics (braces) to reposition the teeth to hold a more ideal bite relationship.
- Restoring the teeth using porcelain restorations to recontour the teeth and correct misalignment and create a harmonious relationship between the teeth, jaws and jaw muscles.
- Tooth replacement and repair
Of course, each case of TMJ is carefully evaluated and the options weighed before any treatment is undertaken.
If you are suffering from jaw or facial pain, popping or clicking in the TMJ, unexplained dizziness, headaches, migraines, neck pain, ringing in the ears, tingling in the fingertips or other symptoms that may be associated with malfunction of the TMJ, call 781-843-7905 or email Pinnacle Dental Aesthetics today. We will schedule an appointment for a consultation where we can answer any questions you might have about the condition and get you on the road to a happy, healthy, functional new smile.