What is TMJ?
TMJ stands for "temporomandibular joint", or jaw joint. These are the small joints in front of each ear that attach the lower jaw to the skull, and happen to be the most complex joints in the entire body. The area of the face where the TMJ is located is an intricate network of bones, including the teeth, muscles, and nerves. Because of this, TMJ dysfunction affects many areas of the body, from the top of the head in migraine-like headaches to numbness or tingling in the arms and pain in the neck or shoulders.
- Facial pain
- Jaw pain
- Sore, chipped, broken, or worn teeth
- Clicking or popping in the jaw
- Limited jaw movement
- Chronic pain in the jaw, teeth, face, head, neck, shoulders, or back,
- "Ringing" in the ears
- Tooth Grinding
Both clenching and grinding can have adverse effects on the teeth, and especially on restorations (crowns, bridges, inlays, and onlays). To protect your teeth against fracture, an occlusal device, or "nightguard" can be made.
What Causes TMJ Pain?
In most cases, TMJ disorders stem from a condition called malocclusion, which means having a bad bite by way of genetic predisposition, dental trauma, or poorly constructed dental work. The term, " malocclusion" means that your upper and lower teeth do not close together in the correct way so as to not cause adverse forces on the musculature and ligaments that hold our lower jaw to our skull. When the teeth are misaligned, they cannot provide the support the muscles in the face need for chewing and swallowing. These muscles are then forced into a strained position, resulting in pain throughout the face, head, arms, shoulders, and back. Although a person may have beautiful teeth or had orthodontics to line the teeth up for aesthetic reasons, the muscles and joints may not be positioned in a physiologically neutral and natural position.
How Can TMJ Be Treated?
Dr. Cordoves and Dr. Gulizio are trained in neuromuscular dentistry and understand the complex signs and symptoms associated with TMJ/MPD. They will first measure the most relaxed position of your jaw to determine the goal for normal jaw positioning. The bite is then realigned and your teeth may need to be restored to return the jaw and joints to their optimal position. Once the bite is realigned and the jaw is in place, pain that resulted from the imbalance disappears.
Neuromuscular dentistry is the art and science of finding a person's relaxed jaw position (their correct bite), and then devising treatments to make it permanent, thus eliminating painful symptoms such as headaches, neck-aches, shoulder pain and jaw pain. We use muscle relaxation techniques and orthotic devices to diagnose and treat your symptoms and have a success rate exceeding 90% in eliminating the chronic pain and discomfort felt by TMJ sufferers.
Why is Neuromuscular Treatment Needed?
If TMJ/TMD is left untreated, symptoms can worsen and extend far beyond the jaw and mouth area. Neuromuscular treatment helps those suffering from TMJ/TMD find the ideal at-rest jaw position.
TMJ treatment may also include:
- Physical therapy
- Surgical remedies
- Cosmetic dentistry
- Oral appliances
- Medication (as a last resort)
- TENS electrical stimulation
Occlusal Guards and Orthotic Devices
Occlusal guards (also called "nightguards") are made of thermoplastic resin and are meticulously customized to fit on top of your upper teeth. Impressions must be made and jaw records taken to ensure a precise fit.
A WORD OF CAUTION! Over-the-counter appliances are not recommended, as they do not take into consideration the mechanics of your jaw joint. Additionally, these appliances do not properly fit and can dislodge at night while sleeping. In many instances, over-the-counter appliances do more harm than good!