Are you experiencing a number of symptoms that your doctor can’t explain or treat? Jaw pain, headaches, ringing in the ears, dizziness, neck pain, and others are common. You may have been told that it’s all in your head, but it may be all in your jaw. Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is commonly overlooked by doctors, but it can cause a wide range of symptoms. If you have jaw pain, headaches, and other symptoms that aren’t responding to treatment, TMJ may be to blame.
Do You Have TMJ Symptoms?
Just having TMJ symptoms is not proof that you have TMJ, but if you have several of the following symptoms, you should be evaluated for TMJ:
- Jaw pain
- Popping or clicking of the jaw
- Irregular jaw motion
- Clenching or grinding teeth
- Heavy tooth wear
- Chipped or cracked teeth
- Neck pain
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Back pain
- Tingling or numbness in the fingers
Some people experience all these symptoms as well as less common ones (such as hearing loss). Others experience only one or a few. No matter how many symptoms you have, though, successful TMJ treatment can reduce or eliminate them all.
What Is TMJ?
TMJ occurs when there is a dysfunction in the jaw joint that interferes with the normal function of the bite and other systems.
One of the most common types of TMJ is a simple muscle inefficiency. This can be caused by jaw dislocation or a bad bite--your teeth aren’t fitting together properly, leading to constant muscle tension and painful spasms. We can demonstrate this link for you with scientific instrumentation.
T-Scan is a digital bite measurement that allows us to identify exactly what forces your bite is experiencing, so we can identify just how uneven and excessive these forces are. Then we can use the electromyograph in the K-7 system to show you how these forces translate to muscle tension and stress. They are pulling against one another and trying to put your jaw into a position it simply won’t go to because the teeth, bones, and joints aren’t designed to go that way. This can result in jaw pain, headaches, clenching or grinding teeth, and more.
Another type of TMJ is when the cushioning discs in the jaw joints become displaced. These joints are supposed to protect the bones from grinding against one another, and once they’re displaced, not only does your jaw begin to function irregularly — popping or clicking, jerking suddenly, and even getting stuck — but you also begin to experience degenerative damage.
But these conditions only really become TMJ when they lead to symptoms outside the jaw. Many of the symptoms are due to the way that muscles in the jaw partner with muscles in the head and neck, and when jaw muscles are tense, they pass tension on to their partner muscles. Other symptoms are due to the closeness of the jaw joints to nerves that run to the head and face as well as the ears.
TMJ treatment can restore proper function to the jaw joint and alleviate symptoms no matter what type of TMJ you have.
TMJ treatment starts with a neuromuscular dentistry diagnosis. Once we have identified the cause of your TMJ symptoms, we can recommend an appropriate TMJ treatment.
For many people, the only TMJ treatment necessary is a relaxing massage. We use TENS (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation), which encourages the muscles to pulse and work themselves into a relaxed state. This can allow you jaw to slip back into place and resume its balance. You may only need this done once, though for most people it’s only effective if done at regular intervals.
Other times, your jaw may need support to resume its balanced configuration. TMJ treatment in this case might be a bite splint, kind of like a sports mouthguard that you wear to hold your jaw in the proper place. You might wear this for most of the day, or maybe just at night.
If your bite splint is effective but you want to get TMJ treatment without using the splint, we might recommend building up your teeth so that they hold your jaw in the proper place themselves without the need for a splint.
In some cases of TMJ where a great deal of degenerative damage has occurred, surgery might be the recommended TMJ treatment.