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Effective Treatments for TMD-Related Pain

If you have chronic headaches or pain in the face, jaw, or neck, the cause may actually be in your temporomandibular joints (TMJ). These are your jaw joints, which can become damaged or dysfunctional over time.


Wayne Family Dental has a variety of therapies available for treating such TMJ disorders (TMDs).

Common TMD Symptoms

The most common TMD symptom is popping or clicking sounds from the joints when you open and close your mouth. The noise is often accompanied by a restricted mandibular range of motion.


Other common symptoms include

  • Chronic headaches
  • Limited jaw movement
  • Dizziness
  • Ear fullness or pain, or ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Face or jaw pain
  • Neck pain or stiffness

Causes of TMD

Sometimes a TMD can have a singular cause. Sometimes, the cause is multifactorial. Here are some of the most common issues that lead to TMJ troubles:


Trauma: Direct and indirect trauma to the chewing structures can lead to TMJ, head, neck, and face pain. Strains, sprains, and injuries can lead to both pain and dysfunction.


Improper occlusion: “Occlusion” is how the teeth come together, a/k/a the bite. When teeth do not fit together properly, it causes sustained microtrauma to the joints. Over time, the body begins to compensate by involving muscles in other areas such as the neck and upper back.


Muscle hyperactivity: This goes hand-in-hand with internal jaw joint problems. Any condition that prevents the complex system of muscles, bones, and joints from working together in harmony can contribute to a TMD. Trauma is one factor that can disrupt this system. Others include connective tissue disorders, arthritis, and skeletal malformation.


Posture: Poor posture places unnecessary wear and tear on all the joints, including the jaw joints. Over time, consequences of postural neglect can be as damaging as an injury.


Stress: Physical and emotional stress alike can reduce the adaptive capabilities of the jaw. Some patients unconsciously brux and/or clench their teeth in response to increased stress. This creates strain on the TM joints and muscles, which can, in turn, worsen TMD symptoms.

TMD Treatments

Addressing TMJ troubles often involves treating the relationship between the upper and the lower teeth and the teeth to the jaw joints, as well as the supporting ligaments and associated musculature.


Because problems associated with the jaw joints can be progressive, accurate and immediate diagnosis and treatment is crucial. 


So the first step is to have an evaluation by a highly trained and qualified TMD dentist like Dr. James Choe. His process includes a full evaluation of the TM joints, as well as the head, neck, and face. X-rays are taken and occasionally MRIs. 


Once he has objectively determined the extent of injury to your TMJ areas, he can develop a personalized holistic treatment plan with a realistic prognosis for you. 


Our approach to TMD treatment involves three basic steps: 1) Address the pain, 2) Restore function, and 3) Stabilize the patient’s oral structure. Once pain is controlled and the jaw joint is stabilized, the bite is balanced so the teeth, muscles, and joints all work together without strain or pain. 


Most treatments include the use of a custom-made orthotic (“splint”) for orthopedic and musculoskeletal stabilization. Additional adjunctive therapies may include

  • Ultrasound
  • Iontophoresis (i.e., the use of a mild electric current to deliver pain-relieving therapeutics through the skin)
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Hot/cold therapy
  • TENS
  • Spray and stretch
  • Injection therapy
  • Stress counseling
  • Relaxation therapy
  • Chiropractic
  • Nutrition counseling

While dentistry has an essential role to play in the successful diagnosis and treatment of TMJ disorders and pain, interdisciplinary management with supporting health care professionals is ideal for delivering the best results.

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