TMJ Treatment & Neuromuscular Dentistry
What is TMJ disorder?
TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, is a painful condition in which the temporomandibular joint, the main joint in the mouth, is overworked or misaligned. It can lead to headaches, oral and neck pain, and difficulty opening and closing the mouth. Many patients describe an audible popping or clicking sound when yawning or chewing. Unfortunately, these symptoms are often mistaken for stress or something else other than a bad bite!
- Jaw and tooth pain: When you have TMJ, the wear and tear on your teeth can be more rapid than if your jaw was properly aligned. The erosion on your teeth can lead to uneven tooth wear, loss of range of jaw motion, and gum recession. If you feel any pain in your jaw or teeth, it may be cause by TMJ.
- Facial Pain: It is very common for people with TMJ to endure facial pains. TMJ specifically affects your head, neck, and facial muscles, so if a nerve gets pinched, the pain can travel to your face and cause discomfort. Also, a “bad bite”, dislocates the placement of the jaw and surrounding muscles. This imbalance can cause facial pain or pain behind the eyes.
- Neck, shoulder and back pain: When you have TMJ, your unaligned bite causes a ripple effect throughout your neck, shoulder, and back. Sore, tight, and contracted jaw muscles will tilt the head and shoulders, causing overcompensation of your neck, shoulder and back muscles. This results in pain and strain throughout the upper half of your body.
- Ear pain and congestion: Ear congestion, ear aches, dizziness, or ringing in the ears can all be traced to TMJ. The over-activity of the jaw can make your ear canal sensitive. When the jaw is misaligned, the muscles and nerves in your ears can be affected causing dizziness, vertigo, ear pain, restricted hearing, sinus pain, and a congested feeling in your ears.
- Numbness in arms, hands, and fingers: When your bite is misaligned, the nerves and muscles throughout your face, jaw, neck and shoulders may spasm. This pinches the nerves that lead down to your arm, causing numbness and tingling in your arms, fingers, and hands. Nearly half of individuals that suffer with TMJ experience these symptoms. Numbness and tingling may occur with or without pain and may vary in intensity.
- Clicking, popping, or locking of the jaw: When the jaw is not in the proper position, it often causes the TMJ disk to be displaced and the join spaces to be closed. This may result in clicking or popping when opening or closing your mouth. The clicking may happen during eating, yawning, or biting. In extreme causes, the displacement of the disk may cause your jaw to lock after opening your mouth wide. The patient may not be able to close his or her mouth. This is a serious condition should be treated by a doctor.
- Teeth and jaw grinding: A mild grinding of the teeth is not a serious problem until it is done unconsciously when asleep. This condition is called Bruxism TMJ and can be very painful. It can result in a worn out surface on the teeth and sometimes fractures in the teeth.
- Headaches: Headaches are one of the most common complaints from TMJ sufferers. When the TMJ is out of alignment, this causes tension in the muscles of your face, neck and shoulders leading to tension headaches. Headaches can also be caused by blood pressure build-up due to the straining of your muscles. These headaches can be extremely painful and frequent, often misdiagnosed as migraines.
- Postural problems: TMJ may seriously affect the postural appearance of your entire body. When you have an unbalanced bite, the length of your muscles and muscle activity will also be unbalanced. When the muscles become over-contracted, it can create a forward-leaning posture. This slouching causes a ripple effect down your body. When your entire body is not lined up properly, it can result in a decrease of your physical and athletic performance. You may also feel increasingly sluggish and tired throughout your day.
Symptoms can vary for each individual patient, contact Dr. Frey to learn more about TMJ symptoms.
See How Neuromuscular Dentistry Relieved Jon from TMJ Disorder
TMJ specialist Dr. Frey is a leading expert in neuromuscular dentistry and has treated hundreds of patients with persistent pain from TMJ disorder. Neuromuscular dentistry emphasizes the importance of the position of the jaw, teeth, and surrounding tissues.
TMJ treatment is divided into two phases: Phase 1 is curing the symptoms of TMJ disorder, and Phase 2 is preserving the results of the treatment permanently with restorative, or orthodontic procedures. Phase 2 can also involve permanent splint therapy, bite adjustments and doing nothing.
- PHASE ONE: In phase one, a TENS machine (see below) is used to locate your jaw’s most relaxed natural position. We call this the “physiological resting position.” This machine will de-program overworked jaw muscles with tiny, relaxing electrical impulses. We can also de-compress the joint using other exercises. We prove that the jaw muscles are relaxed by evaluating EMG (electromyography data – see below) which is like looking at a Richter Scale measuring an earthquake. We then capture this position with high-quality molding material, and realign your bite into the optimal, relaxed, position.
You will then wear a custom shaped orthotic to rehabilitate the jaw muscles. Don’t worry, the orthotic rests atop your existing teeth and looks perfectly natural. It will not alter your speech, and no one will notice you’re wearing it. Almost immediately, and more so as your muscles acclimate, you will notice that headaches, back and neck pain, ringing in the ears, vertigo, and many other symptoms associated with TMJ will disappear.
- PHASE TWO: Phase two of the treatment begins once you’re completely comfortable with your new bite. In order to sustain the results of your TMJ treatment, Dr. Frey may recommend additional cosmetic dental procedures as part of a full-mouth rehabilitation plan or orthodontics depending on your personal situation. There are many options to choose from once your TMJ symptoms have vanished.
Watch as Dr. Frey Discusses TMJ Treatment
- Unbalanced bite: A bad bite can result in soreness and can be a leading cause of TMJ. The obvious signs include an under-bite or an over-bite. An unbalanced bite could result from one cause, or a combination of factors. Allergies during childhood, thumb sucking, old dentistry that needs to be replaced, or the shifting of teeth due to tooth loss can all lead to a bad bite.
- Airway issues: Airway issues can cause TMJ pain, an improperly formed jaw, and bite issues. If you have an unbalanced bite, your tongue can’t sit where it should, which as a result can block air from getting to your lungs. Improper breathing may be due to childhood allergies. When a child is constantly congested, the tongue drops down allowing air to pass over it. The tongue is no longer in balance and the upper jaw’s growth changes over time. This can result in a compromised breathing airway.
- Skull deformation: Pressure and force exerted on a baby’s head during birth affects the shape and development of the skull and the bones in the head and face. If there is a misalignment of the bones, muscles, or ligaments, this can alter the development of the TMJ. It can also result in the misalignment of jaws and skull bones, causing an unbalanced bite.
- Genetics: The fact is that your jaw structure, teeth positioning, and entire facial composition are inherited. This can include the sensitivity to your environment leading to allergies and congestion. If you inherited a small jaw or if your teeth are too large to fit your mouth, the result is a bad bite and misaligned jaw.
- Injury or trauma: An injury or trauma to your jaws from an accident or any intense physical impact, can lead to damage to your muscles or joints. Any time your body absorbs the impact of a serious blow, it transfers throughout the rest of your body, altering the function of the muscles and joints in your head, neck, and face. This results in discomfort and irritation related to TMJ.
- Unbalanced dentistry: Even if you have gone through orthodontic work to straighten your smile, there could still be invisible problems. You can have a perfectly straight set of teeth but still be suffering from TMJ symptoms and have a misaligned bite.
Dangers of Untreated TMJ
Since TMJ disorder is easily aggravated by many normal daily tasks, it can be difficult to avoid. Anyone who suffers from TMJ syndrome should seek treatment. Failure to do so may have serious lifelong consequences.
- Other medical conditions: TMJ can lead to other medical conditions. Most sufferers of TMJ will attempt to alleviate their pain through self medication. Over time, this can lead to addiction. Many TMJ sufferers fall prey to alcoholism and drug abuse if left untreated by a doctor. Constant pain from TMJ, combined with grinding teeth can lead to sleep disturbance and insomnia as well. TMJ symptoms may also contribute to depression, which can negatively impact job performance, relationships, and quality of life. Not treating your TMJ could also lead to malnutrition and possibly eating disorders. This is because some patients try avoiding the problem by only consuming soft foods, liquids, or not eating at all. No one should have to suffer with these other medical conditions since TMJ can be treated permanently through safe, nonsurgical treatment.
- Dental health: Putting off TMJ treatment can lead to additional dental health issues. The grinding and clenching of teeth can lead to fractured teeth and worn down enamel. Sufferers of TMJ tend to favor one side of the jaw over the other which can cause swelling on one side of the face and unsymmetrical muscle growth. This can give the patient a lopsided appearance.
- Tinnitus and jaw problems: Since the joint is located directly beneath the ears, TMJ disorder may lead to tinnitus or even permanently compromised hearing. Inner ear problems can also cause difficulties with balance and cause vertigo, or recurring dizziness. Vision may also be compromised. TMJ can also lead to serious jaw problems, such as locked jaw. The jaw may become permanently stuck open, requiring a trip to the hospital. The breakdown of the cartilage in the jaw can also result in the dislocation of the jaw.
Jaw tracking instrument
Sensors in this jaw tracker will allow us to see the teeth without the cheeks getting in the way (worn once in order for Dr. Frey to obtain data). It is an unobstructed view inside your mouth. Perfect for us to capture your bite in the correct physiological position.
What is A TENS Machine?
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS or TNS) is a device that will send an electrical impulse to the nerve that innervates all the muscles of the TMJ. We use this machine to relax the jaw muscles (low earthquakes on the Richter scale). We use the TENS to buzz all the tension out of the muscles before we capture your physiological correct bite position.
what is Electromyography (EMG)?
Getting the EMG data as low as possible is the key to getting you out of pain! Low EMG’s tells us that you are relaxed and in a healthy position. Using TENS machine and other exercises to decompress the jaw joint will help get these muscles as calm as possible.
Migraine and Neck Pain Relief
schedule a consultation
If you are suffering from jaw pain then you might have TMJ. Call (310) 276-4537 to schedule a consultation with Beverly Hills TMJ Dentist, Dr. Frey.