Understanding TMJ Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Understanding TMJ Dysfunction and Treatment Phases: A Comprehensive Guide by Dr. Randi Green

Welcome to our TMJ education blog! If you've been experiencing symptoms like migraines, facial pain, jaw discomfort, or even ear ringing, you might be dealing with temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD). I'm Dr. Randi Green, a TMJ expert in Springfield, Missouri, and I'm here to shed light on this complex condition and the practical treatment phases we offer at our practice.


Unveiling the Mystery of TMJ Dysfunction

The temporomandibular joint, commonly referred to as TMJ, is a complex structure in the intricate web of bones within your jaw. This joint interacts harmoniously with various parts of your body, and when it's not functioning correctly, it can cause a range of symptoms. 


TMD, or temporomandibular joint dysfunction, is the term used to describe symptoms such as migraines, facial pain, jaw discomfort, clicking or popping of the jaw, limited jaw movement, and more.


Interestingly, the impact of TMD isn't limited to your jaw area alone. It can affect your teeth, leading to worn, broken, or chipped teeth. 


Furthermore, TMD can trigger neck, shoulder, and back pain and unexpected symptoms like ear ringing (tinnitus) and restricted airway.

Unveiling the Root Cause: Malocclusion

Surprisingly, many cases of TMD are rooted in a condition called malocclusion. This term refers to a misalignment of your teeth, which don't fit together correctly. 


Malocclusion encompasses underbites, overbites, crowding, spacing, and even missing teeth that cause surrounding teeth to shift. Even if your teeth are straight, they might not be positioned in a way that supports comfortable muscles and joints, leading to TMD symptoms.

The Power of Physiologic Dentistry

Enter Physiologic dentistry—a specialized branch of general dentistry that delves into the intricate system of teeth, muscles, and jaw joints. 


This approach seeks to understand how these components combine in your bite (occlusion) and how imbalances can trigger various issues. We aim to bring your muscles and joints into harmony by addressing the underlying misalignment, preventing discomfort and damage.

Phases of TMJ Treatment

Phase I: Initial Evaluation and Reversible Therapy

In the first phase, we comprehensively assess your teeth, jaw joints, neck muscles, and airway. Once we confirm that your symptoms are dental-related, we initiate the first phase of treatment. Our focus is achieving a comfortable muscle position through reversible therapy before considering any definitive procedures. 


We use a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device to relax your muscles gently. This device counters the previous muscle programming caused by functioning in an improper position. After muscle relaxation, we record your comfortable jaw position and create a removable appliance that you'll typically wear for 3-6 months.


In more severe cases, we might utilize jaw-tracking devices and electromyography to monitor muscle activity and ensure optimal results.


Phase II: Bite Correction and Lasting Relief

Once your TMD symptoms find relief, we proceed to the second phase of treatment. In this phase, we adjust your bite to align with the comfortable muscle position achieved in Phase I. Treatment options may include creating an overlay partial/appliance or slightly changing your natural tooth structure. 


For more substantial realignments, physiologic orthodontics and specialized appliances can move teeth to a desired position. If aesthetic improvements are an end goal, alongside bite correction, custom-made porcelain restorations in the form of porcelain crowns and veneers can help rehabilitate your bite.


Are You Experiencing TMD Symptoms?

If any of the following questions resonate with you, your symptoms could be linked to TMJ issues:

  • Do you grind your teeth during sleep, as reported by your sleep partner?
  • Does chronic or severe facial pain plague you?
  • Do migraines frequently disrupt your life?
  • Does neck and shoulder pain accompany your headaches?
  • Is eating, drinking, yawning, or mouth movement painful?
  • Have you noticed unexplained ringing in your ears?
  • Do you wake up with facial pain or sore jaw tissues?
  • Does your jaw make clicking or popping sounds?

If any of these symptoms sound familiar, there's hope for relief. While various approaches exist for treating TMD, our emphasis is on physiologic dentistry, which has relieved countless individuals suffering from this condition. 


By addressing the root cause and focusing on reversible methods, we strive to offer symptom relief before considering extensive jaw surgeries or costly recurring injection treatments.

Choosing the Right Provider for Your TMJ Care

If you're grappling with TMD symptoms, seeking a provider who stays up-to-date with the latest advancements is crucial. I am proud to share that I am an LVI Fellow and have undergone extensive advanced training at the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies—a world-renowned center for dental education in aesthetics and TMD treatment.


Through rigorous training and a commitment to excellence, Dr. Green has assisted patients from patients who travel many hours to manage their TMJ pain symptoms. She is passionate about incorporating knowledge into patient care and helping her patients regain comfort and well-being.


Remember, you don't have to endure TMD symptoms—help is available, and a brighter, more comfortable future awaits.

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