TMJ

The initials “TMJ” is often used as a laypersons’ diagnosis for pain originating from the jaw joint. What most people don’t realize is that the joint does not have to be in pain for a diagnosis of TMJ dysfunction.

TMJ or TMD (temporal mandibular dysfunction) as it is known by medical professionals can be a horrible problem. TMD has received a bad rap because physicians in most cases need to be dentists, and dentists need to be more like physicians to provide efficacious treatment. For years surgical solutions only seemed to exasperate or at least did little to relieve the symptoms of TMD. There is no recognized specialty of TMD, only a few dentists who strive through continuing education to help people with this problem. Although very few dentists get involved with treating TMD the solution can be rather simple and very efficacious for the patient.

What are some of the symptoms of TMD? Common symptoms include, but are not limited to one or all, the following: Headaches (daily or weekly), facial muscle pain, ringing in the ears, ear pressure, difficulty opening and closing your mouth, and clicking joints. TMJ (TMD) patients are frequently woman because their ligaments are more limber so their joint bone is more likely to become displaced. From my own experience 30% to 40% of all young children that I examine have clicking joints but few develop any other symptoms. The likely cause for clicking is some sort of known or unknown trauma. Trauma pulls the ligament beyond 30% of the ligaments’ resting length permanently lengthening the ligaments. The joint the ligament supports is no longer supported, placing the joint at risk for further deterioration.

Last week, I had the pleasure of treating a very nice and very distraught 38 yr old lady, whose complaint was that she was tired of living with her migraine-like headaches. Even after seeing a neurologist and being placed on migraine medication the headaches persisted. Only 20% of all headaches are intracranial in origin, the remaining are structural in origin. After diagnosing this lady with TMD, we were able to completely resolve her headaches in 2 weeks without medication. You can imagine how grateful she felt after suffering 19 yrs with this problem—a problem that few could sympathize with.

-Dr. Aubin

TMJ Frequently Asked Questions:

  •  What is TMJ? 
    One out of every 10 Americans suffers from chronic headaches, and they spend over half a billion dollars every year for over-the-counter medications to relieve their pain. They never imagine that their headaches may be caused by TMJ, and that their pain is the result of a bad bite. At Wakefield Orthodontic Care we know a bad bite can put your jaw-to-skull relationship out of alignment.When this happens, TMJ symptoms occur. This cluster of symptoms can include: headaches, earaches, ear ringing, loud jaw clicking, even stiffness and pain in the jaw, neck, shoulders and back. This cluster has puzzled doctors in the past. Now we can put a name to it: TMJ.According to recent studies, more than 40 million Americans suffer with TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction) or MPD (Myofascial Pain Dysfunction). The good news is that we at Wakefield Orthodontic Care are taking the lead in finding solutions.
  • How are TMJ disorders caused?
    The exact cause of the disorder is unknown. Some factors are related to an improper bite, injury, arthritis, severe stress, or a combination of factors. Clenching or grinding teeth, a condition called bruxism, may develop from stress or as part of a sleep disorder.This can tire muscles and create painful spasms, causing even more pain. Repeated muscle problems may affect the joints, resulting in tissue damage, muscle tenderness, and more spasm, perpetuating a cycle of pain.
  • What are the symptoms of TMJ disorder?
    • Jaw pain or soreness, more noticeable in the morning or afternoon
    • Jaw pain while chewing, biting, or yawning
    • Earache without an infection, sometimes spreading into the face
    • Soreness in front of the ear
    • A clicking or grinding noise while opening and closing your mouth
    • Difficulty opening and closing your mouth
    • A stiff jaw when eating, talking, or yawning
    • Sensitive teeth without any signs of dental problems
    • Aching on the side of the head and neck pain
    • A burning sensation in the mouth/tongue
    • Grinding of your teeth
    • Restricted range of jaw movement or “locking” of the jaw in an open or closed position

    A thorough dental examination is the first step toward finding a solution. Depending on the diagnosis, treatments may include reshaping teeth, bite guards, and muscle relaxants.

  • What TMJ disorder treatments are available?
    Proper diagnosis is critical to make sure you receive treatment for your particular condition. At Wakefield Orthodontic Care we will only recommend treatment after conducting a thorough health history, clinical exam, taking appropriate X-rays, and perhaps confirming the condition through other diagnostic tests.
    At Wakefield Orthodontic Care we may prescribe a multiple-phase treatment plan. Only minor corrective treatment may be needed. Treatment may be simple or require more steps for alleviating the condition, depending on the degree of severity. Some of these treatments include:

    • Taking a non-aspirin pain reliever or prescription medications such as muscle relaxants, analgesics, or anti-inflammatory drugs
    • Eating soft foods
    • Avoiding chewing gum
    • Applying moist heat or ice
    • Physical therapy
    • Teaching relaxation techniques to control muscle tension
    • Stress management training techniques
    • Posture training
    • Wearing bite plates to eliminate the harmful effects of clenching or grinding the teeth, and a
    • better positioning of the jaws
    • Adjusting the bite, known as “occlusal equilibration” involving removing interferences when the teeth touch
    • Replacement of defective restorations that prevent the jaws from meeting properly
    • Orthodontics, to put the teeth in proper position
    • Surgery

    In most cases, the symptoms related to TMJ disorders can be successfully treated to reduce or eliminate your discomfort. Postponement of treatment usually results in more damage to the joint, muscles, or teeth.