“Dr. Agatep, I think I have TMJ…now what?”
Several years ago, a patient came to me complaining of severe headaches, neck and radiating shoulder pain. She was 62 year old at the time, and for years would survive on a steady diet of ibuprofen and rubbing liniments. Her physicians could find nothing wrong, and she went from one specialist to another attacking each symptom one by one. Painkillers for the headaches, physical therapy for the shoulder pain, chiropractic adjustments for the neck pain, and exercise for the tinnitus.
As we went through the consult, I asked her “why did you decide to see me about these issues” and her answer was “Google told me”…LOL! I laugh because like many others, the dentist is usually the last stop after all avenues have been exhausted. TMJ/TMD symptoms are usually treated individually, and not as a whole, due to a general lack of understanding behind the complexity of muscles that make up the temporomandibular joint. That’s where I come in.
Oh, so what happened to my patient? Well, we cured her of her symptoms. After neuromuscular treatments, the use of specialized orthotics to train her bite, and crowns and veneers to hold everything in place – she became symptom free. Her headaches went away, full neck mobility returned, and the shoulder pain disappeared. Not to mention she had a brand new smile that made her look 10 years younger!
Symptoms of TMJ/TMD
The pain associated with TMJ/TMD disorders can vary, but generally speaking it is often described as an intermittent dull, aching pain that radiates from the jaw joint and surrounding area. To complicate things further, sometimes there is no real pain at all, but other symptoms may still manifest itself as follows:
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Stiffness in the jaw muscle
- Ear pain (pressure and ringing)
- Clicking or popping of the jaw
- Bruxism / grinding
- A bite that feels “off”
What causes TMJ/TMD?
There are many things that can trigger TMJ, and sometimes it’s not straightforward or obvious. A few things to look out for:
- Missing teeth
What are my TMJ/TMD treatment options?
The good news is TMJ/TMD is a treatable condition. There are several ways to approach this, and our goal is to not only treat the symptoms, but to find the underlying cause and prevent future pain. Being pain free is a life changing experience, and it makes me extremely happy if I can help a patient find comfort again.
- Anti-Inflammatory Medication – NSAIDS can reduce the swelling of the muscles in the face, which can help reduce symptoms and make you more comfortable.
- Oral Orthosis – Your dentist may suggest that you wear a custom mouth guard, which is designed to prevent the teeth from grinding together and assisting with proper alignment.
- Application Of Moist Heat – Moist heat applied to the area can help you by relaxing the muscles in the area around the affected joint.
- Stress Reduction Techniques – Stress can tighten the muscles of the jaw and contribute to problems relating to TMJ/TMD. Stress reduction techniques can prevent this from becoming a problem.
- Chiropractic and/or Physical Therapy
- Neuromuscular Dentistry – this is my specialty, and I will utilize a number of techniques to align your bite in the most optimal position, all without surgery.