If you experience jaw pain or headaches, you may be suffering from a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problem. TMJ is also used by many to refer to temporomandibular joint disorders (TMDs) or diseases that affect jaw joints and the muscles that control the jaw’s movement. Neuromuscular dentistry is used to relieve TMD by focusing not only on the position of the teeth and jaw but also the activity of the muscles that control the jaw.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
Some of the symptoms or signs of TMJ may be surprising, but patients with a TMJ disorder may suffer from the following:
- Pain in neck, shoulder and back
- Clicking or popping of jaw joints
- Reduced ability to open or close mouth
- Loose teeth
- Facial pain
- Pain and sensitivity in teeth
- Crowded teeth
- Biting or chewing difficulty
- Difficulty swallowing
- Worn, chipped, or cracked teeth or fillings
- Numbness in arms and fingers
- Clenching or grinding of teeth or jaw
- Earache, ringing in the ears or ear pressure
TMJ specialist Dr. Jerry M. Strauss uses advanced technology to better diagnose patients complaining of TMJ disorder (or TMD) symptoms in Totowa, New Jersey. During this TMD review, jaw joint movement and jaw muscle functions are monitored.
Using neuromuscular dentistry techniques, initial jaw mobility measurements will be taken with the following methods:
- Jaw tracking: Using a magnet and a sensor, jaw movements can be tracked during a small series of jaw exercises.
- Sonograph: Using a sonograph, Dr. Strauss can measure any sounds in your jaw joint as you open and close your mouth. TMD issues can be identified through the volume and timing of the noises.
- Tomograph X-rays: These specialized X-rays allow our LVI dentist to check for the position and health of the bones that make up the jaw joint.
- Electromyography: This neuromuscular dentistry technique allows Dr. Strauss to measure the minor electrical currents that tense muscles exude.
After the initial measurements are taken, Dr. Strauss uses a Myomonitor device to relax the muscles of the jaw using mild electrical impulses. Once the muscles are relaxed, subsequent measurements are taken to note the difference between the natural position of your jaw and its relaxed position. These neuromuscular dentistry techniques can determine if your symptoms are caused by TMD.
Neuromuscular Dentistry at Aesthetic Dental Care of New Jersey
Dr. Strauss is aware of how important treating the muscles of the jaw is in providing complete dental care. Through neuromuscular dentistry, TMD symptoms are relieved by causing the jaw muscles to return to a relaxed, comfortable position.
The three basic steps involved in treating TMJ with neuromuscular dentistry are:
- Relieve muscle pain and spasms: Muscle pain associated with TMJ is treated through the use of Myotronics devices.
- Stabilize the patient’s bite: Using dental orthotics to create a harmonious bite in which the teeth, joints of the jaw, and head and jaw muscles can work together without undue strain.
- Long-term management: Once a patient’s bite is stabilized, long-term treatments are needed to maintain a corrected bite. These treatment methods include permanent orthotics and removable overlay partials, dental crowns, reshaping tooth enamel to correct bite, and orthodontics.
Treating TMD With Myotronics
Myotronics has been the leader of the neuromuscular dentistry field for over 30 years. Because of the company’s history, research and quality products, Dr. Jerry M. Strauss is proud to use Myotronics devices when treating TMD in Totowa, New Jersey.
The Myomonitor is a muscle stimulator that is used by our LVI dentist to relax the muscles in the jaw. It is vital in both the diagnosis and treatment of TMD. This device safely sends minor electrical impulses to the muscles. The Myomonitor is considered a transcutaneous electrical neural stimulation (or TENS) unit. The TENS device releases the electrical impulse about once every 1 ½ seconds. This not only relaxes the muscles but also increases blood flow to the muscles and flushes out toxins.
Using only a nine-volt battery, the Myomonitor is one of the safest methods in neuromuscular dentistry to relax the muscles. The design of the device also allows Dr. Strauss to simultaneously stimulate different sets of muscles, speeding the treatment process.
In conjunction with the Myomonitor, Dr. Strauss also uses an evaluation system from Myotronics. The advanced software of the evaluation device helps our LVI-trained neuromuscular dentist to diagnose TMD in patients. The system is critical to identifying problems with the jaw, tracking and electromyography steps in diagnosis.
Dental orthotics may resemble a simple night mouth guard, but their function in neuromuscular dentistry is much more important. The use of orthotics is a critical part of TMD treatments performed at Aesthetic Dental Care of New Jersey.
During the process of stabilizing the bite, our LVI dentist, Dr. Strauss, will create a custom-made, temporary orthotic. Depending on the TMJ patient’s needs, the orthotic may be removable or it may be bonded directly to the teeth. It will work as a splint, gently repositioning the jaw and correcting the coordination of the biting surfaces of the upper and lower teeth.
For the next few months, the orthotic will be worn by the TMJ patient, with Dr. Strauss periodically monitoring the progress. During this time, the jaw muscles will begin to heal themselves and learn to chew, swallow and even rest in their most relaxed positions. In addition to aligning the jaw and retraining its muscles, this neuromuscular dentistry technique also relieves the pain associated with TMD.
The use of a dental orthotic ends for many TMJ patients after the initial few months of treatment. In some patients suffering from TMD, however, a long-term orthotic may be part of their neuromuscular treatment at Aesthetic Dental Care of New Jersey. Call our office today at 973-227-8998 to plan your appointment.
TMJ & TMD FAQ
What is the TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the jaw joint that enables opening and closing of the jaw and other movements.
How common are TMJ problems?
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that approximately 10 million Americans have TMJ disorder (TMD).
How do I know if there is a problem with my TMJ?
You may have TMJ disorder if you experience jaw pain or soreness, chronic tooth grinding (bruxism), a clicking or popping noise when opening the jaw, headaches, ringing of the ears, or limited range of motion in the jaw.
What causes TMJ problems?
There are a variety of causes of TMJ disorder, including a bad bite, chronic tooth grinding, trauma to the jaw (perhaps from an accident), poor alignment of the spine, posture problems, and missing or worn teeth.
How are TMJ problems diagnosed?
Diagnosis involves a conversation with Dr. Strauss to explain your symptoms and concerns. Our dentist will take jaw mobility measurements with jaw tracking, sonography and possibly tomography to learn more about the jaw joint movement and jaw muscle function. We will also use the Myomonitor device to relax the jaw muscles so that we can compare the relaxed jaw position to its natural position.
What can be done about TMJ disorder?
After thoroughly evaluating your case, Dr. Strauss will provide treatment recommendations. The most immediate priority is to alleviate any pain you are experiencing, as well as stabilize the bite and maintain the corrected bite long-term.
To accomplish those goals, Dr. Strauss may suggest the use of the Myomonitor, which is a transcutaneous electrical neural stimulation (TENS) unit that relaxes the jaw muscle to relieve pain. Dr. Strauss may also recommend a customized orthotic appliance that gently repositions the jaw and corrects the contact between the biting surfaces of the upper and lower teeth.
Other treatment modalities may include the use of anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy. Lifestyle changes like not smoking and avoiding caffeine can also help.
Will insurance cover my TMJ treatment?
Medical or dental insurance may cover a portion or all of your TMJ treatment, depending on the specific treatment and your plan’s details. Our office staff would be happy to answer questions about insurance coverage over the phone or in person.
Will TMJ problems go away on their own?
No, TMJ problems can actually become worse if left unaddressed. This can cause severe pain, damage to the teeth, and bone and tooth loss.