TMJ Treatment in Fitchburg, Massachusetts

TMJ Treatment

What is TMJ?

TMJ stands for TemporoMandibular Joint. Everyone has 2, a right and a left. Most refer to TMJ when they have an issue with one or both joints. These are the joints that control our chewing, we use these all day everyday. When there is a problem with the joint or joints, that is when we start to get pain or discomfort as well as many other issues. TMJ issues are present in at least 70% of the population, but you may not be having problems. Usually most people will notice a “click” or a “pop” in one of the joints. Also, if you notice wear on the biting surface or “notching” by the gumline, these are the first signs that there are problems starting to develop inside the joint.

A click/pop is actually the disc that should be between the joint and the skull becoming displaced due to too much force being placed on it. As much as people think this isn’t an issue, we know that this is the beginning stages of more serious problems. This can lead to a locking of the jaw, permanently displaced disc, as well as pain and limited opening. Other people start having ear issues- ringing in the ears, dizziness, stuffiness feeling. Still others have neck and shoulder issues, loss of mobility, pain, stiffness.

So, the earlier we can recognize that there is a problem, the earlier we can treat it and regain the natural balance that should exist.

Can TMJ Affect Other Areas Of The Body?

TMJ can definitely affect other areas of the body! We have seen many people who have TMJ issues present with sore neck/shoulders, ear issues-vertigo/dizziness, tingling/numbness in the arms/hands. A lot of these issues are also because there are neck issues which are caused by the TMJ issues. We have seen people who have Trigeminal Neuralgia that we have been able to relieve by getting the jaw back to its natural, relaxed position. People who suffer from Fibromyalgia have found relief from those symptoms again by treating the jaw. By re-aligning the jaw, to get back to the natural, relaxed position, we have improved people’s posture and helped to relieve even knee pain.

So, yes, TMJ can have effects throughtout the entire body! Another effect that we commonly see is sleep issues. Now, most would say how does that happen? If the jaw is too far back, there isn’t enough room for the tongue, causing the tongue to be pushed back into the throat reducing the airway. Especially when we lay down, the jaw, due to gravity, will fall back, pushing that tongue back as well. We evaluate the airway in our screenings, looking at tonsils/adenoids, deviated septum, turbinates and referring if those issues are impacting the airway.

TMJ Treatment Options

All treatment starts with a thorough exam. This way we can determine what is happening, why it is happening and what we can do to help relieve the issues you are having. We routinely request a CBCT scan along with our exam to gather as much information as we can. We do muscle testing- EMG readings to determine which muscles are working and to make sure the muscles are working as they are supposed to.

Treatment usually consists of 2 phases. The first phase is our diagnostic phase- this is where we determine what we need to do to get you better and actually try out the treatment before any permanent changes are made. This phase uses an orthotic, a hard acrylic splint to be worn on the bottom teeth that will give a new bite. This new bite is determined by all of our testing, this orthotic is designed to reposition the bite to the natural/relaxed position. Once we have you feeling better, getting relief, then we can decide on how to create this bite for you permanently.

Phase 2 is the definitive treatment phase. There are options here as well that will be discussed once we know where your bite needs to be. The options during this phase are partial or complete reconstruction. This would be done if you have severely worn teeth or wanted cosmetic dentistry. Another option is to have a permanent orthotic made that will last for a few years- this is an option if you need to save to complete this phase- this isn’t permanent, but is longer lasting than the orthotic used in Phase 1. Finally, orthodontics is an option for most as well. We now have the ability, even in adults, to correct deficiencies, grow the upper jaw to be able to get you back to that natural, relaxed position. This is different than traditional braces in that we continually monitor the bite during the process and only move a few teeth at a time.

Treatment options will be tailored to your specific needs, this is to provide an overview of what we can do.

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Dr. McDowell's Office

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