TMJ Specialist: Chronic & Acute TMJ Pain Treatment

Cosmetic Dental Care at Sarasota Dentistry

A Dentist for TMJ & Migraine Therapy

The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is located right in front of your ears on each side of your head and is where your lower jaw (mandible) contacts the head (temporal bone of the skull). There is a cushioning between the two bones called a disc. This joint motion is considered a sliding ball and socket. As you begin to open your mouth the lower jaw rotates on an axis and then it slides forward as you continue to open fully.

The disc slides along with the lower jaw to prevent any bone to bone contact. This joint also depends on a number of muscles and tendons working together simultaneously to provide healthy function of everyday actions such as chewing or talking.

TMJ or TMJD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorders) can cause jaw pain, facial pain, neck pain, headaches, as well as, popping and clicking in the jaw while yawning, chewing, or even talking.

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    TMJ Therapy at Sarasota Dentistry

    TMJ Treatment in Sarasota

    TMJ disorders have a number of causes such as a previous injury to the jaw, arthritis, and muscle fatigue from an improper bite leading to clenching and grinding of the teeth. Most cases of TMJ disorders can be treated non-surgically with occlusal splint therapy, a bite adjustment, or a combination of these two therapies. Acute TMJ pain may be treated with medication and a soft diet while more chronic TMJ pain requires splint therapy and bite analysis and correction.
    An occlusal splint is sometimes referred to as a night guard and is made of a Hard Plastic. Soft plastic night guards are not indicated for TMJ therapy. The idea behind this is that the position of the teeth are preventing the TMJ and lower jaw from reaching its proper rest position in the skull – proper rest position triggers brain to turn off muscle activity to the jaw. The splint prevents interference caused by the teeth and allows the jaw and TMJ to be in alignment with the skull and thus relieving the joint of stress and the muscles of fatigue. Some cases of TMJ disorder do require surgical intervention but usually as a last resort.

    Adjusting the bite or teeth position is another way of getting the jaws positioned correctly to align the TMJ. An adjustment can be as easy as polishing off some tooth structure and/or adding to the tooth with bonding. It can also require full mouth reconstruction with crowns and veneers. It may require a combination of procedures so it is very important to perform an occlusal analysis prior to full mouth reconstruction therapy.

    An occlusal analysis of the bite and TMJ is performed by taking a molds of the teeth and a bite record. The models of the teeth are mounted on a special device with simulates a functioning jaw – an articulator. Once the models of the teeth are mounted on the articulator, carbon paper is used to detect where the teeth come together and how they function. This is where you can measure and determine if and where tooth structure needs to be removed or restored in order to get the teeth meeting correctly. After the analysis has been performed on the articulated models, Dr. Michael meets the patient and discusses his findings and recommends treatment options.

    TMJ has a variety of symptoms including jaw pain, facial pain, headaches, sensitive teeth, ringing ears, and bruxism. If you are struggling with TMJ and are wondering what measures can be taken, make an appointment with Dr. Hank and the team at Sarasota Dentistry.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What causes TMJ disorder?
    TMJ is not limited to a single cause -- there are a variety of things that could happen that result in TMJ. Ultimately, TMJ is a form of chronic pain caused by a bad or misaligned bite, dental arch problems, breathing issues, bruxism, jaw dislocation and more. An impact to the jaw or surrounding muscles of the head and neck is also a common cause of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ/TMJD). TMJ can also come on suddenly due to some type of trauma such as yawning or chewing hard foods. These sudden episodes of TMJ are considered acute and may resolve on their own. Dr. Michael has special instructions for patients he feels may be suffering from an acute TMJ episode.
    How is TMJ diagnosed?
    Dr. Hank will carefully examine your jaw joint to help determine your TMJ diagnosis. The examination will check for pain, tenderness, clicking, popping, and bite abnormalities. The range of motion of you jaw will also be evaluated, and an x-ray may be taken to get a better view of your jaw and teeth to determine the cause of your pain. Should an x-ray not reveal the full picture, an MRI or CT scan could be necessary.
    What is the treatment for TMJ?
    Depending on the condition of your disorder and your personal dental needs, your treatment can vary. The first part of any TMJ treatment is to relieve your pain effectively, then, we correct the cause of the TMJ disorder. Options for treatment include medications, orthodontics, dental restorations, and custom made dental appliances and mouth pieces. When you choose Sarasota Dentistry for your TMJ treatment, we will work with you to determine the best course of action for your specific situation.
    How does a Night Guard help with TMJ?
    A night guard is also referred to as an occlusal orthotic or splint. Night guards are made of hard plastic acrylic and are custom fit to each individual patient. These devices designed to protect the teeth and the TMJ during sleep - when teeth grinding is uncontrollable. Some patients with multiple dental restorations such as porcelain crowns and veneers, wear a night guard for additional protection against porcelain fractures during sleep. Patients with multiple dental implant restorations are encouraged to wear an occlusal splint. Occlusal splints can also be used to treat dental emergencies of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). These night guards can provide significant relief of facial pain and migraine headaches when properly fabricated and adjusted to balance the biting forces and TMJ alignment.
    How is the Night Guard made?
    It usually takes two dental visits to make a night guard. At the first visit, the dentist takes an impression of the upper or lower teeth - sometimes both. This visit usually takes about thirty to forty five minutes. After you leave, the impressions are poured into stone dental models of your teeth. The occlusal splint is then fabricated for the upper or lower jaw depending on what the doctor determines will be more comfortable for you to wear. At the second visit, the splint is tried into your mouth. Some adjustments are usually necessary to get the device to go in and out of the mouth without difficulty. Once the night guard is inserted and fits comfortably on the teeth, the biting surface is adjusted to provide maximum stability of the occlusion, TMJ, and facial muscles during sleep. Follow up care is necessary to check that the device is working. Dr. Michael usually suggests that his patients bring their night guards to their dental cleaning appointment. As part of your regular dental check up, Dr. Michael checks to make sure the splint is working correctly. Also, the hygienist will clean your splint in a special dental ultrasonic cleaner. So remember to bring your night guard to your dental cleaning appointments.

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