Tempro-Mandibular Joint Dysfunction Syndrome (TMJ) is a condition affecting a small number of people. TMJ is characterized by severe headaches, jaw pain of varying degrees, grinding teeth, and an intermittent ringing in the ears. The vast majority of TMJ sufferers are unaware that the root cause of these problems is something that a dentist can effectively treat. More commonly, the patient is experiencing a more common disease called Myofascial Pain Dysfunction Syndrome. TMJ Dysfunction is an arthritic problem that involves the bony joint and is equivalent to having a bad knee or hip. This is far less common than originally thought. Most of what we treat is in the category of Myofascial Pain Dysfunction which involves the muscles of mastication and facial expression. I will classify these diseases as head and neck orthopedic conditions or diseases.
The symptoms of Myofascial Pain Dysfunction Syndrome or TMJ diease are debilitating and can greatly interfere with every day life. The comfort and general well being of the patient is at the heart of the dental practice, so pain relief is the first consideration of the dentist. The dentist is able to test, diagnose, and devise an immediate plan to treat the underlying causes of the disorder.
Reasons for treating TMJ
Head and Neck Orthopedic sufferers report that their symptoms generally worsen during periods of prolonged or unexpected stress, and that intense outbreaks of the condition can lead to neck pain and dizziness.
The most common cause of Myofascial Pain is stress or the misalignment of the teeth, often called “bad bite.” It is possible for the dentist to realign or adjust the teeth without the need for painful or expensive surgeries. The realignment/adjustment will stop the pounding headaches, the jaw pain, and the dizziness.
The grinding teeth symptom is particularly common and usually occurs at night. The grinding will eventually erode the structure of the teeth and lead to much more severe dental problems in the future. Untreated myofascial pain is one of the prime underlying factors in eroded jawbones and loose teeth.
It is important for anyone experiencing the symptoms of head and neck orthopedic disease to visit the dentist for an exact diagnosis.
What does treating Myofascial Pain or TMJ disease involve?
These conditions could be a result of several different problems. Bad bite is the most common, but an injury resulting from a blow to the meniscus cartilage is also a possibility. Initially, the dentist will thoroughly examine the jaw area, the patients bite, take x-rays, and review the patient’s history in order to make an accurate diagnosis and recommend necessary treatment. Many times if a soft tissue etiology cannot be isolated, the patient may have to be sent out for a C.T. Scan (three dimensional tomography) to better diagnose the condition. This can rule out any pathology (tumors) or arthritic conditions in the head and neck.
Once a firm diagnosis is attained, there are several ways in which relief can be provided. A specially molded bite guard can be created to stop teeth grinding during the night. A bite relationship analysis may be recommended by the dentist. The dentist can also provide advice on relaxation techniques which will lessen the effects of stress. As a last alternative, the dentist is also able to prescribe muscle relaxants. Dr. Wolff also works with a group of Doctors of Physical Therapy (DPT) that specialize in the treatment of symptoms of Myofascial Pain Dysfunction Syndrome and related soft tissue disease.
Another option is to change the shape of the teeth and get rid of the bad bite completely, often called “realignment.” This is especially useful because it alleviates TMJ symptoms and may improve the aesthetic appearance of the teeth as well. Realignment involves adjusting the relationship between how the upper teeth come together with the lower teeth. This may require new restorations and/or adjusting the natural teeth as well. It is not a painful procedure, and it is one the dentist has performed with great success numerous times. This would have to be evaluated after conservative therapy. As with any procedure, the dentist will be happy to answer questions and discuss symptoms, options, and treatments.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of TMJ, we encourage you to contact our office today to schedule an appointment.