The temporomandibular joint is the only joint of its kind in the body. It is unique in both its structure and function.
One of the most unique aspects of this joint is that when it is diseased (TMJ Dysfunction), the doctor most qualified to cure its diseased condition is a qualified dentist. The reason a qualified dentist is best able to treat TMJ Dysfunction is because the teeth are a critical factor in the health of the TMJ.
Symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction:
- Frequent headaches (2-3 times per week)
- Clicking or popping in the jaw joint
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Ear or sinus “fullness”
- Chronic fatigue
- Frequent neck or back aches
- Tenderness around the eyes and/or ears
Causes of TMJ Dysfunction:
Approximately 95% of cases:
- crooked teeth
- deep overbite
- underdeveloped dental arches
- retruded lower jaw (naturally occurring or orthodontically induced)
- missing or badly worn posterior teeth
Approximately 3% of cases:
- Blow to the jaw
- Excessive pressure during tooth extraction
Less than 1%:
- Systemic diseases (rheumatoid arthritis)
Less than 1%:
- Excessive lower jaw growth
Unfortunately, the majority of TMJ Dysfunction cases are treated by medical doctors using drugs to treat only the symptoms of the disease (headaches, neck aches, depression, etc.). As a qualified dentist, we are able to not only treat the symptoms of the disease but also fix the causes of the disease so that the symptoms are permanently resolved. We do this in a number of ways depending on the specific cause. Properly diagnosing the cause of the TMJ Dysfunction is key to properly treating the disease. In our office we have the ability to take 3-Dimensional images of the TMJ using a CBCT. This allows us to precisely see what the joint looks like and then allow us to see that our treatment has resolved the diseased condition.
The cause of TMJ Dysfunction is often crooked teeth. If this is the cause we simply need to straighten the teeth to resolve the disease. In cases of TMJ Dysfunction, clear aligners (like Invisalign) should never be used to straighten the teeth as the aligners can actually make the symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction worse.
If the cause of TMJ Dysfunction is a deep bite then braces is the solution. If the cause is underdeveloped dental arches then we use comfortable, removable arch development appliances to properly develop the dental arches.
One of the most common causes of TMJ Dysfunction is a retruded lower jaw. There are only two ways to resolve this condition: surgery or functional jaw orthopedics. Our preference is to use functional jaw orthopedics. This consists of wearing a comfortable removable appliance for six to nine months which allows the lower jaw to permanently move to its more natural and more aesthetically pleasing forward position. After the lower jaw is moved forward (whether surgically or orthopedically) the patient will then have to wear braces.
Missing or badly worn posterior teeth is also a common cause of TMJ Dysfunction. This can be resolved by replacing missing teeth or building up worn teeth.
As can be easily seen, a proper diagnosis is critical to successfully treat TMJ Dysfunction. It is also easily seen that multiple treatment options may be necessary in order to permanently resolve the disease and not just treat its symptoms.
In today’s world, with the technology we now have to prevent, diagnose and treat TMJ, absolutely no one should ever have to live with this condition. If you suspect you or your partner might have TMJ, please call our office today for a complimentary exam to see if we can help you. 714-838-0760.