What Is TMJ?
TMJ is the abbreviation for temporomandibular joint syndrome or disorder. These joints connect the lower jaw to the skull and allow the jaw to move. When the teeth, facial muscles, and temporomandibular joints are out of alignment, you can develop symptoms of TMJ (temporomandibular joint syndrome or disorder, also called TMD) such as jaw pain, headaches, swelling, clicking or popping in the joint, cracking, difficulty moving the jaw, ringing in the ears, or difficulty biting.
The causes of TMJ symptoms break down into three major categories:
- Muscle strain
- Bone and joint displacement
- Nerve pressure and pinching
These three basic causes are linked. When the muscles of the jaw are straining, they will pull on the jaw joints, causing displacement. The displaced jaw may help some muscles to relax, but it probably stresses others. The stressed muscles and displaced joints increase the risk or pressure or pinching of nerves running through the crowded area at the base of the skull. In response to nerve pain, you likely change your habits and chewing techniques.
Understanding TMJ Disorder
This video by a colleague of Dr. Siegel who has the same training, explains TMD in a very visual and fun way.
What Are The Symptoms of TMJ / TMD?
Sometimes TMJ/TMD is described as “the great imposter” because its symptoms are so diverse and wide-ranging.
TMJ/TMD symptoms include:
- Tension Headaches
- Shoulder, neck or back pain
- Numbness in arms and fingers
- Facial pain
- Jaw pain
- Clicking or popping jaw
- Clenching or grinding teeth
- Ringing ears (tinnitus)
- Congested ears
- Snoring or sleep apnea
Diagnosis of TMJ disorder at Dental Excellence of Blue Bell is a highly technical process, but it is also painless and accurate. Many treatments for it fail because they do not address the source of the patient’s TMJ problem. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment approach that will successfully remedy every patient’s symptoms because every patient is different. While many patients suffer from TMJ disorder because of a problem with their bite, we can’t simply apply the same bite correction to each patient.
Every patient has a bite position that is physiologically correct for them. Using neuromuscular dentistry techniques and technology such as the J5 Myomonitor and the K-7 Evaluation computer, Dr. Siegel will analyze your current bite and then assess whether or not that bite is in line with your natural, neuromuscular bite position. He will be able to tell which of your muscles are working harder than others and can see in 3 dimensions, the path that your jaw travels as you open and close your mouth. This information is also vital to the proper treatment of your TMJ disorder.
We can also get detailed information about the state of your temporomandibular joints using cone beam computed tomography (CBCT). CBCT is a 3D imaging tool that can assess the exact position, shape, and density of bone in the joint and even give us some valuable information about relevant soft tissues. This advanced, powerful tool gives us information we can’t get other ways. This allows for more accurate TMJ diagnosis and better guidance for treatment.
This video describes the TMJ diagnosis process using neuromuscular dentistry.
TMJ Treatment Options
Most cases of TMJ are minor, transitory, and don’t require any treatment other than home care. First, switch to a soft diet and avoid other activities that stress your jaw, such as talking too long or too loud. Also be aware of other activities that stress your jaw, such as weightlifting, running, and other forms of exercise where you might clench your jaw or subject it to trauma. Take over-the-counter forms of ibuprofen (e.g. Advil) or naproxen (e.g. Aleve) that can reduce swelling as well as help control pain. Never exceed the recommended doses on the label unless instructed by a doctor. Apply heat to sore muscles and cold to swelling joints.
If your condition doesn’t improve after a week of home care, if it gets worse, or if your pain is not controlled by the over-the-counter medications, then you need to seek professional care from a doctor or TMJ dentist.
If you become diagnosed with TMJ, Dr. Siegel will determine the best treatment for you which would typically include:
- Relieving the pain and muscle spasms. The first step in TMJ treatment is typically ULF-TENS, Ultra Low Frequency Transcutaneous Electrical Neural Stimulation. ULF-TENS stimulates your muscles to perform a kind of self-massage, which relaxes them and produces endorphins, nature’s pain relievers. This muscle relaxation is often necessary to get a proper diagnosis of your TMJ.
- Stabilizing the bite. Using the K7 Evaluation System, a computer that analyzes your bite, Dr. Siegel will find the ideal position for your jaw to rest in. The next step is to then stabilize the bite to achieve this new position. In many cases this can be done by using an orthotic – a temporary plastic device that fits over the teeth (sometimes called a “bite splint“). Once the bite is stabilized, long-term management can begin.
- Restoring the teeth. In times where TMJ has caused the teeth to be worn down, chipped, or cracked, we often use porcelain veneers as part of TMJ treatment. This allows us to restore the appearance and reverse the damage caused by it.
- MLS laser therapy. Using a warming laser, we can soothe sore muscles and encourage healing in and around your temporomandibular joint. Use of this laser helps improve circulation at the treatment site, improves the release of oxygen, and helps your cells utilize energy more effectively.
- Long-term solutions. There are many ways to keep the permanent bite in alignment including reshaping the enamel of the teeth, installing permanent orthotic devices, installing reconstructive crowns or with braces. All of these solutions to permanently correct the bite have been used with success.
- TMJ surgery. Generally reserved for when other TMJ treatments have failed, surgery can be used to address problems of wear or damage in the jaw joint.
There are many treatment options for TMJ / TMD disorders. The best way to find the treatment plan that is right for you is to schedule a consultation with Dr. Siegel.
If you’re looking for TMJ treatment in Philadelphia, call us at (610) 272-0828 to make an appointment or request an appointment online. If you have any questions about TMJ treatment, don’t hesitate to call or email us.
TMJ Patient Testimonial
“I can’t believe that dental work could help me achieve a pain-free and drug-free life.
I would like to extend my gratitude to you and your staff. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your patience and kindness. I must tell your patients my story so they can learn how much you and your staff have helped me overcome serious pain and headaches. I can’t believe that dental work could help me achieve a pain-free and drug-free life.
My story is simple; I was in severe pain due to headaches, facial and neck pain. I had a feeling after being sent from doctor to doctor that my problem was dental. After seeing several top dentists and neurologists I was going around in circles. The pain had gotten so bad I could not drive or eat. I was put on so many medications I did not know where to turn. While I was on the computer I found your web site and it was a like a light went on. There was an explanation for my pain, TMJ and TMD. I called your office and your staff got me an appointment the next day.
I could not believe that every pain I had could be caused by my bite being off. This was the answer I was looking for. I must say Dr. Siegel was very professional and listened to my story with care and compassion. He was the only doctor I had been to that offered hope to my situation. Within several weeks I had a dental retainer that was designed to fit over my bottom teeth. My headaches went away a week later. We decided a full mouth restoration would be the way to change my bite. We decided to use veneers over my teeth to open the bite and change the position of my jaw. I did the upper teeth first and then several months later I did the bottom teeth. I now have a beautiful smile and have no more pain.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart you were the only doctor who took my case and said I can help you. I placed all my trust with you and your staff. I can’t say how much you have changed my life for the better. I just wanted to let you know how much you have meant in my life and what a great doctor you are. If any of your patients ever need a reference please do not hesitate to call me!”
Wendy Fischer, Philadelphia TMJ Patient
If you suffer from TMJ and you live in the Philadelphia area, call us at (610) 272-0828 to make an appointment with our TMJ dentist, or request an appointment online. Have questions? No problem. Just call or email us today.