If you’re suffering from chronic jaw pain, headaches, earaches, ringing in the ears, vertigo, and a number of other unexplained symptoms your doctor hasn’t been able to help you with, you may suffer from TMJ. TMJ is a name for a collection of jaw disorders, but because the jaw is at the intersection of numerous nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and other systems, TMJ can often cause many symptoms that just don’t seem to be related to your jaw at all.
If you suspect you might have TMJ, please call (361) 851-8274 or email the Corpus Christi Center for Cosmetic Dentistry today for an appointment.
What Is TMJ?
TMJ is an abbreviation for temporomandibular joint disorders, also called TMD. In fact, there are many names for TMJ. Because this joint is so close to the neck, shoulders, skull and teeth, it is often labeled as Musculoskeletal Dysfunction of the head and neck (MSD). Symptoms that appear totally unrelated such as pain in the back or ear disorders are often alleviated along with acute and chronic diseases of the ear, nose, throat, neck, shoulders, back, vertigo and migraines. The syndrome is medical and dental related.
In fact, there isn’t just one TMJ–the number of different names the condition has had over the years is partly a reflection of the wide disparity between what people have observed about the condition. It is like the blind men and the elephant: one doctor looks at muscle-related symptoms. Another looks at symptoms related to jaw disc displacement. And still another looks at symptoms related to jaw deterioration. All these conditions can exist separately or together in each patient, which creates a wide variety of apparent conditions.
Some symptoms people experience in TMJ include:
- Jaw pain
- Jaw popping and clicking
- Irregular jaw motion
- Limited jaw motion or locked jaw
- Headaches, including migraines
- Worn or chipped teeth
- Neck pain
- Back pain
- Ringing in the ears
- Ear pain
The cause of these vastly different symptoms is often the result of a “bad bite” or misalignment of the bite. This initiates a complex array of actions that result in the symptoms mentioned above through a number of mechanisms. The muscles of the jaw partner with muscles in the head and neck, and when the jaw muscles experience tension, they pass it on their partners. This can lead to misalignment of the neck, neck pain, and headaches.
The ear is housed in the temporal bone, which is the temporo- of temporomandibular joint. When the joint is out of alignment, excess pressure on the temporal bone can result in ear-related symptoms, though symptoms may also be caused by interference with the nerves that connect the ear to the brain, which run by the temporomandibular joint.
Misdiagnosis is common. Patients often wander between physicians and specialists depending on the location of the symptoms without finding relief. Diagnosis may include talking about symptoms, discussion of medical history, physical exam, x-rays and EMG (electromyography—a measurement of tension in your muscles). A definite diagnosis is essential in the approach to treatment.
Airway obstruction may be a complicating or initiating factor in the “bad bite.” It can lead to snoring or sleep apnea and will need to be addressed in any successful treatment.
Four approaches or combinations thereof may be recommended as initial therapy:
- Coronoplasty (occlusal equilibration) to remove interferences that cause the “bad bite”.
- Construction of a neuromuscular orthotic to align the lower jaw
- Neuromuscular therapy and treatment
- Chiropractic (Atlas Orthoganists) therapy
- Surgery (rarely) when irreversible damage has occurred in the joint.
Which combination of treatments is right for you depends on the extent of your TMJ, your specific symptoms, and your treatment goals. We can discuss your options and help you decide which one you prefer.
To learn more about TMJ in Corpus Christi, please contact the Corpus Christi Center for Cosmetic Dentistry today.
Sleep Apnea is a medical condition that must be diagnosed by a Sleep Physician with an overnight sleep study (PSG). Sleep Dentists work with the physician to manage the Sleep Apnea with appropriate oral appliances. Dentists cannot treat Sleep Apnea without a referral from a Sleep Physician.