Telltale Signs of TMJ Problems

added on: April 27, 2022

Seeing is believing. While that’s sometimes debatable, seeing something certainly enhances the ability to verify its existence.

One of the advantages of our Cone Beam 3D imaging technology is to give patients the ability to SEE the “inside” areas of their anatomy. In our dental office, that relates to dental structures. This includes teeth, facial muscles, nerves, tissues and the jaws, including the jaw joints.

These views, which can be rotated in various angles, can help us locate the root cause of pain or infection that is often undetectable on conventional “bite wing” x-rays. These 3D views give us the ability, in many cases, to minimize the extent of treatment necessary and reduce the patient’s time in treatment.

In our Shelby Twp dental office, we often use these 3D images to assess the temporomandibular joints (TMJ), among a number of other beneficial uses.

Many people associate the term “TMJ” as a condition that exists within the jaw joints. These joints, located on each side of your head in front of the ears, connect the lower jaw (mandible) and the upper jaw (maxilla). While the lower jaw moves, the upper jaw is part of the cranial structure (skull) and does not move.

The TMJ serves as the connective points that enable the movement. Throughout the day, the jaw joints get quite the workout. They are in motion when you speak, bite, chew, laugh, yawn, snore, and even swallow. Like other structures in the body, these joints rely on a careful balance in order to function fluidly. It doesn’t take much, however, to alter this delicate balance, which is typically due to bite misalignment.

When the bite is misaligned, it means the top teeth are not resting on top of the lower teeth harmoniously and not interacting congruently. This is referred to as malocclusion. Think about chewing. If your top teeth are not moving in conjunction with the lower teeth, they can “hit” wrong. This is what often happens when chips occur.

Although an accident, injury or congenital factors can disrupt the balance of these joints, it is typically a result of bite misalignment. Misalignment often occurs from having crowded or crooked teeth, missing teeth, or improperly sized crowns.

Misaligned teeth causes gum tissues to recede and damages tooth surfaces.

The repercussions of a “bad bite” are far reaching. It surprises many people to learn that their headaches, migraines, ear ringing, vertigo, or sore neck muscles are the result of a TMJ disorder. The connection is made more clear when the proper diagnostic tools and skill levels are used.

Initially, bite misalignment may cause soreness in the jaw joints. The discomfort may be more noticeable when eating or speaking. During sleep, the disparity of the bite can trigger night-time clenching or grinding as the jaw seeks a position of comfort and balance. These forceful actions can also cause teeth to wear down, chip, break or even tilt out of position.

Even without imaging, visual signs of malocclusion can appear, such as abnormal tooth wear. In our office, our advanced technology provides computerized tools to take our suspicions to the next level. In addition to Cone Beam images, the intricacies of misaligned teeth can be revealed on diagnostic equipment that is specific to the bite.

Upper and lower teeth showing wear from night-time grinding.

One is the BioPak system. This painless process measures and records the interactions of the upper and lower jaw, jaw joints, and associated muscles at various ranges. The information is a significant aid in treatment planning for TMJ disorder therapy as well as sleep disorders.

TekScan (or T-Scan™) is also used in fully assessing the bite. T-Scan is the only technology that shows the measured forces and timing of chewing surfaces coming together for the overall bite in various positions and movements.

I’ve seen a number of patients who were told, for years, that their bite was ‘correct’ and their headaches or facial pain were unrelated to their bite. However, having a patient put their teeth together and slide them back and forth on articulating paper doesn’t really give a full picture of what’s going on.

As a Neuromuscular dentist who treats people throughout Michigan and beyond, I have acquired specific skills and understanding to treat TMJ-related pain. My wide-reaching reputation for properly diagnosing TMJ disorder has helped hundreds of adults finally find comfort, and if the jaw joints are truly the source of a patient’s problems. Our advanced technology also means that patients can avoid unnecessary or lengthy treatment to receive the most conservative treatment for desired results.

If you have frequent headaches, migraines, jaw soreness, ear ringing, dizziness, tingling in extremities, neck or shoulder pain, jaw popping or difficulty opening the mouth fully, bite misalignment may be to blame. Don’t allow these problems to worsen and leave you with chipped, broken, worn or fractured teeth – and miserable pain that will likely worsen over time.

There is a significant need to maintain the delicate balance your oral structures require. When it comes to the muscles, joints, bones and teeth working together, a Neuromuscular dentist can help you regain the proper balance needed – and enjoy your days (and nights) without TMJ associated discomfort.

To discuss your options and the diagnostic process, call 586-739-2155 or Tap Here to request a free, no-obligation consultation.

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