Do you have headaches (even migraines), jaw pain, or other, painful or irritating symptoms your doctor can’t treat? That might mean you have a temporomandibular joint disorder (called TMJ or TMD). Instead of just trying to treat the symptoms, our neuromuscular dentists Dr. Ken and Marnie Collins will seek out the root cause, which can mean long-lasting relief. And in many cases, you can get relief without pills and without surgery.
We use the label TMJ to describe at least three distinct conditions with overlapping symptoms, but not everyone experiences the same set of symptoms. It can cause problems for doctors trying to diagnose the condition because sufferers can experience:
- Jaw pain
- Clicking or popping joint
- Jaw that’s stuck or has limited motion
- Jaw clenching and tooth grinding (bruxism)
- Excessive tooth wear
- Bite that feels “off”
- Tinnitus (ringing or other sounds in the ears)
- Stuffy ears
- Vertigo or dizziness
- Neck pain
- Back pain
- Tingling or numbness in the fingers
As we said, not everyone experiences the same symptoms. If you have three of these symptoms, or at least one that’s severe but doesn’t respond to treatment, you should be evaluated for TMJ.
What Causes TMJ?
Because TMJ is actually several overlapping conditions, there are many potential TMJ causes. Some of the most common causes are:
- Congenital or developmental issues
- Trauma including jaw whiplash
- Medical procedures like intubation
- Nail biting, pencil chewing, or other bad oral habits
- Poorly fitting dentistry
TMJ is a progressive condition. It can take years to develop after the inciting cause. You might have had symptoms all this time, but you ignored or didn’t notice them until they became bad.
How Do You Diagnose TMJ? How Long Does it Take to Recieve a TMJ Diagnosis?
One of the biggest challenges in properly treating TMJ is getting a proper diagnosis. Many doctors and even dentists don’t know how to diagnose the condition, which means that they’re not sure what they’re treating.
However, our neuromuscular dentists have the training and equipment to get a scientific diagnosis that shows where the problem is and how to fix it. We use the K7 machine to evaluate your current bite, including the true motion of your jaw, the sound of your jaw in motion, and the tension in your jaw muscles. We can tell if the position of your jaw is putting too much stress on teeth, joints, or muscles.
We’ll also take a detailed health history and feel your jaw joint and muscles to identify sources of tension and pain. This will help us identify the true cause of your TMJ. Once we’ve identified the true cause, we can recommend treatment. When you visit us for a consultation, we will diagnose you with TMJ that day.
Once we’ve figured out the type of your TMJ, we can recommend a treatment that will be effective and enduring for you. Some of the common treatments we use are:
- Periodic TENS massage
- Bite splint
- Full mouth reconstruction
- BOTOX ® Injection
Muscle tension is the most common type of TMJ. Sometimes, this can be resolved with nothing more than intermittent massages with TENS (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation). Other times, we achieve muscle relaxation with targeted BOTOX ® injections.
If bite problems are causing TMJ, we can sometimes resolve them with coronoplasty. In this procedure, we remove a little bit from some teeth to make them fit together better.
What is the Most Common Treatment Type?
Perhaps the most common treatment is a bite splint, which holds your jaw in a more relaxed position. This is our most common type of treatment and nearly 40-60% of patients use it.
How Quickly Do Patients Notice Results From Treatment?
Most of our patients see improvement of symptoms in as little as a week after wearing a removable orthotic.
What Percentage of TMJ Patients Require Surgery or Full Mouth Construction?
Most TMJ conditions do not require TMJ surgery for relief. Overall, less than 2% of our patients require surgery. Full mouth reconstruction is usually reserved for people who have tooth damage related to their TMJ. Approximately 20-40% of our patients get a partial or full mouth reconstruction.