What is TMJ or TMD?
“TMJ”, although it has become almost a household word, is a non-specific, catch-all term for a variety of pain/dysfunction conditions of the head and neck. It was originally derived from “Temporomandibular Joint”, your jaw joints – once thought to be the source of most of these aliments.
Today we know that there are many causes of head and neck problems that may or may not be related to the temporomandibular joint. For this reason, most dentists use “TMD” (for temporomandibular disorders) to more accurately describe the condition.
Signs & Symptoms of TMD
Pain or dysfunction of the head and neck is a very common condition and one that might be resolved very simply or might be very complex and frustrating to treat, depending upon the circumstances.
The bite can be a factor in many types of pain or functional problems because of the inter-relationship of the overall musculoskeletal system. Since there is a relationship between the teeth, jaw joints, head and neck muscles and head posture, a problem in any one of these areas may affect others.
These can include painful clicking or popping of the jaw joint, various types of head and neck pain, swallowing problems, postural problems and excessive snoring or sleep apnea to mention a few.
In addition, we look at your posture, appearance and condition of your teeth, and existing bite that might aid in diagnosis. An imperfect bite often plays a significant role in these conditions.
As a neuromuscular dentist I will consider all of the information gathered by taking your history and doing a physical examination of your teeth, head and neck. Usually, we will conduct a series of tests using non-invasive electronic instruments. Data from these tests will indicate whether your bite is a major contributing factor to your problem.
An orthosis is a custom-made appliance fabricated of plastic that can worn over the teeth to maintain the neuromuscularly derived bite position. At this point, nothing is done to permanently alter your teeth or your bite.
You typically wear this appliance for a prescribed period of time to verify that this new jaw position solves or reduces the problem. If it does, it has proven that the imperfect bite was a major cause of the problem and you may elect to go on and have your natural teeth treated to permanently maintain that new bite position.