Temporomandibular joint disorder, more commonly known as TMJ or TMD, is an easily misdiagnosed condition that can significantly lower your quality of life. It can cause a large variety of symptoms, many of which may not seem to be directly associated with jaw misalignment. Detecting and treating TMJ is the primary focus of neuromuscular dentistry, which is a specialty that Dr. John Schmid trained in during his time at the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies.
If you suffer from unexplained headaches, neck pain, jaw pain, or other symptoms, you may have TMJ. Contact Dr. Schmid at 512-329-5967 today to schedule your TMJ consultation in Austin.
What Is TMJ?
TMJ is a condition caused by jaw misalignment that can result in painful symptoms. Many people go through life suffering from headaches and other aches and pains without any idea what is actually causing them. After all, not many people would think to visit a dentist if they're having chronic headaches. However, a dentist is the best person to diagnose TMJ.
Jaw misalignment often causes symptoms when pressure is put on facial nerves, most commonly the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve is what transmits sensation to the sinuses, eyes, and jaw, and it is also responsible for the chewing muscles. Lockjaw can be a result of pressure on this nerve.
Symptoms of TMJ
There are many TMJ symptoms, not all of which are localized to the jaw. Common symptoms include:
- Chronic headaches
- Ear pain and/or tinnitus
- Sinus pressure and pain
- Eye pressure and pain
- Generalized facial pain
Other symptoms that are more obviously related to the jaw can include:
- Clicking or popping noises when moving the jaw
- Pain or swelling around the jaw joint
If you have any combination of these symptoms, it is probably a good idea to get checked out by an experienced neuromuscular dentist. Dr. Schmid can examine you and, using sophisticated diagnostic tools, help determine if you have TMJ and come up with a customized treatment plan.
Headaches are one of the most common symptoms of TMJ. Pressure on the trigeminal nerve resulting from jaw misalignment can cause severe headaches that mimic migraines or tension headaches. If you have tried and failed to find an underlying cause for your headaches, it's possible that you may be suffering from TMJ.
If you have not been able to find relief from your chronic headaches, visit Dr. Schmid for a TMJ consultation. He can examine your jaw and symptoms to see if you may have this condition, and create a custom treatment plan to help alleviate your pain.
What Causes TMJ?
TMJ can be caused by problems with the jaw muscles, the jaw joint, and facial nerves. These problems can arise due to, among others:
- Injury to the jaw, for instance from whiplash
- Bruxism (chronic grinding of the teeth)
- Displacement of the cushioning disc between ball and socket of the jaw joint
- Jaw misalignment from dental issues such as missing or worn down teeth
Decaying, missing, worn, or otherwise damaged teeth can cause your bite to become misaligned, resulting in TMJ symptoms. Stress is another big factor, as it can cause you to clench your jaw and grind your teeth unknowingly. If your joint becomes dislocated or if the "cushion" comes loose, this can also cause painful symptoms that you should have checked out immediately.
If you've recently had a jaw injury and started noticing other symptoms that you initially thought were unrelated, it may be TMJ.
Diagnosis of TMJ
Many signs of TMJ can be detected during your routine dental hygiene and teeth cleaning appointments. If you are experiencing symptoms, then Dr. Schmid can utilize specialized diagnostic tools during your appointment to see whether or not you may be suffering from TMJ.
One such diagnostic tool is the K7 Evaluation System. This system uses multiple sensors to track even the most minute movements of your jaw, and can provide a three-dimensional representation of your jaw joint as well as map out your optimal alignment. It is lightweight, comfortable, safe, and effective.
Your TMJ treatment will vary depending on what specifically is causing your symptoms. However, most TMJ treatments are aimed at restoring the proper alignment to your jaw. The most common treatments for TMJ include:
- Bite correcting orthotics
- Mouth guards to reduce teeth grinding
- Restorative dentistry procedures
Dr. Schmid uses the TENS unit (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) to relax your jaw, relieve your pain, and help find the ideal position for your jaw. Once your jaw is fully relaxed, he can use the K7 system to map your jaw position, then use the data to create a custom orthotic designed to gradually achieve your best alignment. Depending on the extent of your condition, you may need to wear this orthotic all day and night, or only at night. You can take it off to perform essential tasks such as eating, brushing, and flossing.
If your teeth need to be corrected in order to restore your bite, Dr. Schmid will recommend the appropriate restorative dental procedures to fix your alignment, which could include:
If you grind your teeth at night, you may need a mouth guard in addition to an orthotic or restorative dentistry treatment. A mouth guard is worn while sleeping to prevent the teeth from grinding against each other. Dr. Schmid can create a custom mouth guard fitted to your teeth that is very comfortable to wear.
Home Treatments for TMJ
At-home TMJ treatments can help to relieve pain, but unfortunately they cannot address the root cause of your TMJ to get rid of it completely. If you find that your TMJ pain continues even after trying home remedies, you should see a TMJ dentist for a more permanent solution.
Home remedies for TMD pain can include:
- Icing your jaw
- Massaging your jaw
- Avoiding difficult to chew foods such as apples, jerky, hard rolls, granola, and more
- Avoiding chewing gum
- Avoiding habits such as chewing on your nails
- Exercising regularly and meditating in order to help reduce stress
These treatments are aimed at reducing pain and helping to relax the jaw muscles, but they are not permanent solutions. Some people may find that their pain is manageable enough that they do not need to seek professional help, but for others, visiting an experienced neuromuscular dentist is recommended.
TMJ Treatment vs Medications
Treatment of TMJ does not include the long-term use of medications such as pills or injections. Many people who suffer from prolonged, chronic pain end up addicted to medication, which can lead to a significant drop in quality of life as well as a drop in the ability to be a fully functioning adult. If your pain is caused by TMJ, there is no need for these addictive medications.
Prolonged use of many prescription and over the counter analgesics can lead to depression, kidney failure, liver failure, and other serious conditions. These risks are unnecessary if your pain can be relieved through jaw realignment. See Dr. Schmid for a TMD consultation if you are concerned that your headaches may be leading you down a path of no return.
Why You Should Choose an LVI Fellow for Neuromuscular Dentistry
The Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies is considered a premier post-graduate dental training institute. Dentists who achieve the "Fellow" designation after completing the full core curriculum are considered to have extensive experience and training that set them apart from other dentists. The LVI curriculum delves deeply into advanced techniques in cosmetic and neuromuscular dentistry, leaving graduating dentists with a unique skill set and comprehensive knowledge of various dental practices.
Dr. Schmid uses the skills acquired from his LVI training to create thorough, custom treatment plans for each patient. He understands that no two cases of TMJ are exactly alike, and will work with you to find the best treatment for your individual case using the most sophisticated techniques and technology.
Schedule Your TMJ Consultation Today
If you are suffering from unexplained chronic pain in your head, jaw, neck, or shoulders, it may be time for a consultation with a neuromuscular dentist to see if you have TMJ. Call Dr. Schmid at 512-329-5967 to schedule your appointment today.
We serve patients in Austin, Bee Cave, Lakeway, and other nearby areas of Texas.