There’s an old cartoon that shows a man seeing a doctor and telling him, “It hurts when I move my arm like this.” And, the doctor replies, “Then quit moving your arm like that.”
Jokes aside, the body has certain ways of telling us that something is wrong. If your knee aches for a period of time, a cause exists (perhaps a disc that’s wearing down). If your stomach hurts, you probably ate something that disagreed with you. A lower back ache may be due to strained muscles, perhaps during a rigorous workout or lifting something heavy.
As a general dentist serving patients in Oakland and Macomb counties, treating toothaches is a large part of my day. The reason for most toothaches is typically some level of decay or infection that has formed below or within the tooth. These can typically be treated with a crown over the tooth once the tooth is free of decay or the infection has been resolved.
However, as a neuromuscular dentist as well, my advanced skills enable me to treat patients for pain that comes from the mouth but is extending beyond.
Many individuals are surprised to learn that their persistent headaches, vertigo, or ear ringing is actually due to jaw joints that have become stressed and strained over the years. These joints, known as the temporomandibular joints (or TMJ), are located in front of the ears on each side of the head. These joints hinge the lower jaw to the skull – and move often.
When certain issues create strain on the movement of the joints as they rotate in unison, there are eventually warning signs that signal the brain that something is wrong. This comes in the form of pain or symptoms that cause aches, soreness or imbalance.
TMJ disorders can be caused by trauma (such as in a hard fall or vehicle accident), an improper bite, arthritis or wear and tear of teeth over the years. Common symptoms include jaw tenderness, headaches, earaches and facial pain.
In addition to designation as a Fellow by the renowned LVI Institute For Advanced Dental Studies, I am a member of the International Association of Comprehensive Aesthetics. The designation of a Neuromuscular Dentist comes from completion of over 300 hours of extensive training.
In neuromuscular dentistry, bite alignment is known to be an integral factor in proper balance that incorporates all cranio-facial structures. A misaligned bite can cause strain to these joints while chewing, speaking, and even in resting positions. Extended periods of time of this strain will eventually lead to problems.
A Neuromuscular Dentist has a unique understanding of the disruptions to cranio-facial interactions. These advanced skills enable me to incorporate neuromuscular considerations into dental treatment or correct associated problems that have existed for years.
First, it’s helpful to know what symptoms are typically associated with TMJ disorder. These include:
• Frequent Headaches or Migraines
• Painful Jaw Joints
• Pain in the Face, Neck and Shoulders
• Face or Neck Pain
• Uncomfortable, Uneven or Painful Bite and Inability to Chew
• Chipped, Worn or Broken Teeth
• Grinding or Clenching
• Clicking or Popping Jaw
• Ringing Ears or Vertigo (dizziness)
• Difficulty Opening and Closing the Mouth
• Tingling Hands
The key to treating TMJ disorder properly is to finding the precise point that is causing it. For example, if it is coming from a misaligned bite, exactly where in the bite is the imbalance? Proper diagnosis not only occurs with the involvement of a neuromuscular dentist, conservative treatment in a minimal time frame is greatly helped with the results of computerized diagnostic technology.
In addition to the amazing 3D views afforded by our Cone Beam technology, advanced features include:
The Biopak system records the functions and congruity of the upper and lower jaw, jaw joints, and associated muscles at various ranges.
Tekscan (T-Scan™) provides an efficient digital occlusal analysis. The readouts show where bite contact is made as well as when and with how much force. T-Scan also shows the force and timing of occlusal surfaces coming together.
Once the pain’s source is known, treatment may be surprisingly conservative. In some cases, the reshaping of certain teeth or replacing of one or more crowns may solve the problem. In more extreme cases, treatment may involve one or more options to resolve the TMJ-related issues.
If you feel you have TMJ disorder, we encourage you to seek proper treatment that begins with an accurate diagnosis. This way, we can resolve the associated discomfort and pain and help to resolve the miserable side effects. Begin with a free consultation to discuss your individual situation and what may be involved for diagnosis. It may also be helpful to view a brief video to introduce you to our unique environment for treating TMJ-related problems:
To schedule a consultation, call 586-739-2155 or tap here for an online request.
In the meantime, you may be able to lessen the symptoms of TMJ pain through some at-home measures, such as:
• Apply moist heat or cold packs to the side of the face and temple area for about 10 minutes. Soothing heat can be applied using a warm towel or washcloth.
• Adjust your diet with mostly soft foods to prevent jaws from chewing stress. Avoid chewing gum.
• Take OTC nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) or naproxen (Aleve®). Muscle relaxants can also help relax tight jaw muscles.
• Wear a night guard that is custom-made for your bite to keep your jaw in a more favorable position. Most can be worn during sleep only but you may require one for 24/7 wear.
• Avoid or limit jaw movements that can overwork the jaw joints, such as yawning, resting your chin on your hand or holding the phone between your shoulder and ear.
• Practice good posture to reduce neck and facial pain.
• Keep your teeth slightly apart as often as you can to relieve pressure on the jaw.
• Try relaxation techniques to help control muscle tension in the jaw.
If you’d like to get to know our office and its advanced features for complete dental care, please view: