Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) is a technical term that refers to a host of medical conditions related to and affecting the Temporomandibular Joints (TMJ). Located on both sides of the face, directly in front of the ears, the two temporomandibular joints connect the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull. They are responsible for any and all movements of the mouth. These two joints are one of the most complex joints in the human body and as such are easily susceptible to injury and disease. The diagnosis is not always self-evident, but once the problem is identified, it can be treated.

The symptoms of TMD are varied and often may appear unrelated to the oral cavity or the joints themselves. These symptoms include toothaches, headaches, pain in the throat, neck or shoulders. There can be problems with vision, hearing and even balance. Facial muscle spasms, “locked jaw”, grinding, popping or clicking sounds in the jaw or the joint are also common.

The causes of TMD may be related to injury, stress, bruxism (grinding of teeth), inflammation, osteoarthritis, or connective tissue disorders.

TMD Treatment

Treatment options may vary widely, depending on the cause and the severity of the symptoms. Mild cases often respond well to a regimen of anti-inflammatory or muscle-relaxing medications.

If bruxism is the cause, wearing a night guard can be a relatively simple solution. More severe and persistent cases tend to require more invasive treatment (such as surgery) or a longer and more complex treatment approach.

The ultimate goal of such treatment is to correct the patient’s improper occlusion (bite). Using ULF – TENS technology (Ultra Low Frequency Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), the first treatment step is to relax the muscle spasms in the TMJ and the surrounding area. Very low electric current is used to massage and completely relax all tension and relieve the pain. Once the muscles are in a relaxed state, the K7 Evaluation System is used to identify the patient’s correct occlusion position (bite).

The rest of the treatment focuses on reinforcing and stabilizing that optimal position. This is usually accomplished with an invisible appliance called “orthotic”, which is worn by the patient for a period of 3 to 12 months. Once the desired occlusion position is achieved, additional treatment may be needed to maintain it. Treatments like coronoplasty/equilibration (reshaping the surface of one or more teeth), crowns and bridges, removable overlay partials (permanent orthotic device) or additional orthodontic treatment.

TMD is a very real and potentially debilitating condition that is sometimes difficult to diagnose. On a positive note, it is treatable. If you or someone you know is suffering from a persistent pain and discomfort in the mouth, face, head or shoulders, please, come see us for a consultation. We can either eliminate the TMD diagnosis, or we can confirm it and help you treat it.

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