What is TMJ?
The Temporomandibular Joint connects the lower jaw to the skull and is responsible for the opening and closing of the mouth. The way your teeth fit together can affect the health of the TMJ (jaw joint). If the TMJ is dislocated, this can lead to many unpleasant symptoms as listed below.
Patients visit many health care providers in search of answers to their problems since the following symptoms of TM dysfunction (TMD) masquerade as many other conditions..The pain is often described as dull aching pain in the jaw joint and nearby areas.
Do You Have:
* Headaches, neck or back pain
* Earaches, congestion or ringing in the ears
* Clicking, popping or grating sounds when opening and closing the mouth
* Tired jaw or pain when chewing
* Locking of the jaw when opening
* Limited jaw opening
* Dizziness and fainting
* Facial pain or pain behind the eyes
* Numbness in the hands
* Swelling on the side of the face
If you have any of these symptoms, you could have a problem with your jaw (TMJ). When left untreated, these symptoms may lead to increasing muscle pain, and trigger points (knotted muscles) that can send pain to different areas including your neck, eyes, ears, shoulders and lower back. Early treatment is essential as conditions that are left untreated can worsen over time.
Causes of TMD
TMD frequently occurs when the lower jaw is not in the proper relationship to the upper jaw. This often results in dislocation of the protective disc (anteriorly displaced) as the lower jaw assumes a position further back in the socket and compresses the nerves and blood vessels. Some of the most common causes are:
* Clenching or grinding habits
* Lower jaw too far back causing anterior displacement of the disc
* Deep dental overbite
* Missing teeth
* Automobile accident causing whiplash injury
* Trauma to the head or neck
* Bad posture
* Intubation procedures in the hospital
* Extraction of wisdom teeth
To help evaluate the health of the TMJ (jaw joint), a complete medical and dental history must be taken, including the recording of any trauma such as car accidents, whiplash injuries or general anesthetics. The Joint Vibration Analysis (JVA) is a simple, three-minute test to determine the degree of jaw joint dysfunction. Further diagnostic testing includes complete head, neck and posture evaluation with state-of-the art tomographic x-ray equipment to assist with the visualization of the jaw joints and other related structures. Measurement of the dysfunctional muscle activity and abnormal jaw movements will be achieved using the latest in computerized diagnostic modalites including EMG.
Phase One Treatment Objectives
The objective of phase one treatment is to stabilize the lower jaw in its correct position to reduce the patient’s symptoms, improve the jaw movements and reduce the muscle spasms which cause headaches. Sometimes a second phase of treatment will be necessary following the successful completion of Phase I jaw stabilization. Phase two options may include orthodontics, crown and bridge dental work, or fabrication of a permanent dental device.
Patients benefit from conservative, non-surgical treatment provided. Dr. Slabach analyzes the TMJ records, including the x-rays, and then presents recommendations at a final consultation appointment to which spouses are encouraged to attend. If the jaw is out of alignment, the patient will be asked to wear a comfortable dental orthotic (splint) which covers the lower back teeth and makes it easier for the patient to speak.
Patients who clench or grind their teeth will be asked to wear a different, night time splint to reduce painful muscle spasms, headaches and other symptoms.
Both of these splints are made to a specific jaw position unlike a standard bite plane or nightguard.
The Team Approach
Frequently the team approach involving medical doctors, neurologists, ear, nose and throat specialists, chiropractors, massage therapists and physical therapists is necessary to diagnose and treat patients with jaw joint, head and neck problems.