TMJ Disorder and Head, Face and Neck Pain
When one experiences pain, clicking and popping noises and limited movement when opening the mouth they most likely have what’s called “temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD or TMJ).” This condition is fairly common, as it affects 20-30% of the adults worldwide and typically affects more women than men.
The temporomandibular joint connects the lower jaw (the mandible), to the two bone sockets at the base of the skull. If you place your fingers just in front of your ears on the side of your head and open, you’ll feel movement in both joints. These joints allow for movement involved in chewing and speaking.
A variety of symptoms may be linked to TMJ disorders. Pain, particularly in the chewing muscles and/or jaw joint, is a common symptom. Other likely symptoms include:
- Pain in the temples behind the eyes, in the sides of the face and even into the neck;
- Jaw muscle stiffness or limited movement or locking of the jaw;
- Dizziness or ringing, buzzing, or hissing in one or both ears;
- Painful clicking, popping or grating in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth;
- A change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together; and
A TMJ dysfunction also affects digestion, as it can affect how the teeth come together. Chewing is the first step in properly breaking down food and the dysfunction of the jaw joint affects how the teeth make contact with one another while chewing. Chewing is an unconscious activity, however those with TMJ will find ways to adjust how their teeth come together in order to accommodate the imbalance in the chewing mechanism. This often results in incomplete mastication (chewing) of food particles, which affects the process of swallowing and absorption of nutrients.
Dentistry’s primary role is to facilitate chewing. Therefore, correcting a TMJ condition often falls under the purview of a dentist trained in this area of dentistry. Furthermore, Dr. Pete’s approach to dental treatment seeks to maintain the integrity of the chewing mechanism. Therefore, he seeks to ensure that any dental treatment is in alignment with the teeth and doesn’t create an imbalance in the jaw joints.
Dr. Pete has been successfully treating TMJ conditions for over 35 years, most commonly with custom-fit appliances or other modalities.
Why It’s Helpful To See a Dentist Trained in TMJ
In 1979, just a few years out of dental school, Dr. Pete began his journey of advanced training in TMJ, Orthodontics, Function and Functional Appliances. His impetus was the many patients who came to him with seemingly unresolveable TMJ pain. Most had spent years consulting medical providers for answers to unrelenting head, neck and jaw pain, often accompanied by back pain. Some had been diagnosed with TMJ and recommended surgery or medication as the only solution.
Over the course of many years Dr. Pete’s studies included training in a variety of disciplines that became loosely referred to as “Orthopedic Dentistry.” Although not a recognized specialty in dentistry, its principles of correcting jaw joint dysfunction and the bad bite that normally results from this condition were integrated into Dr. Pete’s general approach to dentistry. As the jaw joints are an integral part of how the teeth function during chewing, a misaligned jaw can create a bad bite which affects the teeth and gums in different ways, including:
- Uneven wear of teeth;
- Needing root canals on one side of the mouth;
- Sensitive or sore teeth; or
- Unexplained tooth pain.
Diagnosis and Treatment
As part of every routine exam, Dr. Pete will check the TMD joints for imbalance. Certain dental conditions, such as those mentioned above, may indicate a TMJ disorder, in which case dental treatment can include correcting the imbalance. Any dental work done in the presence of misaligned jaws will have limited workability.
If a TMJ condition is suspected, diagnostics (called a “Workup”) will be recommended so the correct treatment can be done. Dr. Pete has been successfully treating TMJ conditions most commonly with custom-fit appliances or other modalities.
Often symptoms such as tooth pain can be misdiagnosed by a dentist not trained in TMJ treatment or Orthopedic Dentistry. This is one reason why it’s helpful to see a dentist who’s trained in TMJ.