Serving Brentwood, Belle Meade and Green Hills Areas of Nashville TN
Temporomandibular joint disorder is a debilitating ailment that, according to some estimates, could affect more than 10 million individuals in the United States. Also known as TMJ disorder or TMD, this disorder also is one of the most difficult for a medical professional to diagnose. The best-qualified medical professional to help patients with TMJ disorder is a neuromuscular dentist. This is a specialty of dental science focusing on the alignment of the bite and jaw. Neuromuscular dentist like Nashville’s Dr. Brian Devine at Devine Dentistry uses his extensive post-graduate training to help identify and treat cases of TMJ disorder.
Devine Dentistry wants to educate you on FAQs about TMJ disorder. Here the answers to some frequently asked questions about the disorder.
What causes a case of TMJ disorder?
TMJ disorder manifests in any situation where the temporomandibular joint, which connects your jaw to your skull, becomes dysfunctional. In many cases, this dysfunction is caused by an injury—usually from a blow or impact that is sustained to the jaw, the head, the neck, or the temporomandibular joint itself.
Other fairly common causes of TMJ include:
- Malocclusion, also known as a bad bite or misaligned bite
- Crooked or missing teeth
- Jaw alignment problems
- Bruxism, which also is known as teeth grinding or clenching
- Arthritis, usually emanating from the temporomandibular joint itself
What are the symptoms of TMJ disorder?
The dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint quickly can create an assortment of different consequences throughout your body. The jaw joints themselves often are affected soon thereafter, and soon the dysfunction can begin to affect the surrounding network of nerves, joints, and muscles, eventually impacting the face, head, and neck—even spreading to the shoulders and back.
One of the most common symptoms of TMJ disorder is pain, which often reaches severe and chronic levels, intense enough that it impedes the ability to function on a daily basis. Many TMD patients feel this significant pain because the temporomandibular joint is located very close to the trigeminal nerve, which sends more sensory information to the brain than any other neural pathway in the body, including the spinal cord. The issues with the temporomandibular joint often cause the trigeminal nerve to be compressed, impinged, or otherwise aggravated or stimulated—generating impulses of pain.
This pain also may manifest as intense headaches that occur on a regular basis and often are identified or misdiagnosed as migraines. Learn more about how TMJ causes headaches and the differences between TMJ headaches and migraines.
The symptoms of TMJ disorder can vary greatly from person to person.
If I have TMJ disorder, why should I see a neuromuscular dentist?
Neuromuscular dentistry is a specialization in dental science that uses advanced post-graduate training and state-of-the-art technology to identify and treat TMJ disorder. An experienced, expertly trained neuromuscular dentist in Nashville knows how to find and restore the optimum alignment of your bite and jaw. This alleviates the stress on the temporomandibular joint, which also resolves any symptoms that have manifested from the dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint.
How does a neuromuscular dentist diagnose TMJ disorder?
Our Belle Meade neuromuscular dentist, Dr. Devine, performs an examination. Among other things, this exam usually involves trying to identify pain and tenderness in the jaw joints. This diagnostic process may involve taking digital X-rays, which produce images that are clearer and more precise than those taken by traditional X-ray machines—and do so in less time while exposing patients to a mere fraction of the radiation.
Dr. Devine also uses an advanced technology known as a BioPAK system that tracks jaw movements, and any vibrations as you move your jaw. Electromyography is another helpful component of this system as it measures the actions and movement of your oral and facial muscles.
How does Devine Dentistry treat TMJ disorder?
No two cases of TMJ disorder are alike. It may take any of the following methods, or a combination of different procedures, to provide relief.
Some of the methods at the disposal of your Nashville neuromuscular dentist include:
- Dental restorations to replace missing teeth or fill gaps between teeth
- Re-aligning the bite
- Oral appliance therapy
Jaw surgery also is an option, although this is extremely rare and occurs in less than 1 percent of all cases of TMJ disorder.
Most neuromuscular dentists prefer to use oral appliance therapy. This entails supplying the patient with a custom-made oral appliance that is made of high-quality materials and constructed from impressions of your mouth to ensure a snug, secure, and comfortable fit. When worn, this oral appliance gently guides the jaw into its preferred alignment, alleviating the stress on the temporomandibular joint and then resolving any other symptoms—including pain.
If I have TMJ, will it go away on its own?
No. For a person with TMJ disorder, the worst course of action is taking no action. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, this disorder and the problems it causes only will get worse. If you think that you or someone you love is suffering from this disorder, schedule a consultation with our Nashville TMJ specialist today by calling (615) 269-4209.
Devine Dentistry is proud to serve the oral health needs of patients in the areas of Belle Meade, Green Hills, and Nashville in Tennessee.