TMJ—Neuromuscular Dentistry


Woman with hurting jaw needs to see dentist at Cooley Smiles
The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is the hinge that connects the upper and lower jaw. This hinge is one of the most complex joints in the body. Any difficulty with this complex structure of ligaments, discs, bones, and muscles is classified as a temporomandibular joint disorder or TMD. At Cooley Smiles, we practice neuromuscular dentistry to determine the optimal position of the jaw and correct misalignments. The goal of neuromuscular dentistry is to eliminate the painful symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder.

Causes and Symptoms of TMD

The exact cause of TMD is typically hard to determine. However, most temporomandibular joint disorders are the result of:
•  Muscle tension. Tension in the jaw, face, neck, head, and shoulders can cause your jaw to feel achy, painful, or stiff. Many patients experience muscle tension as the result of stress and anxiety. Stress-related habits include teeth grinding (bruxism), excessive gum chewing, and nail-biting. Muscle tension can also be a response to injury or trauma.
•  Problems with the joint. The TMJ is an extremely fragile system that allows your jaw to move backward, forward, and side to side. Over time, you may experience problems with the joint that lead to TMD. These problems include the displacement of the disc that cushions the joint, degenerative diseases that destroy the joint tissues, tumors and congenital issues, and scar tissue caused by injury or trauma.

You may suffer from a temporomandibular joint disorder if you have:
•  Clinking or popping sounds when you open and close your jaws
•  Tenderness or pain in the jaw muscles
•  Headaches, earaches, and pain behind the eyes
•  Lockjaw
•  A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down
•  Pain when you chew, yawn, or open your mouth wide

During your consultation visit, Aaron Cooley, DDS will determine whether or not your symptoms align with TMD. Because it is hard to determine the exact cause of TMD, we may take a complete medical and dental history, conduct a thorough exam, and take x-rays.

What Is Neuromuscular Dentistry?

Once we have determined you have TMD, we will discuss the possibilities of neuromuscular dentistry. Neuromuscular dentistry can eliminate your symptoms through bite correction. The goal is to establish a physiologic resting position for the jaw. Once the proper resting position of the jaw is determined, you may need to undergo restorative dental procedures to maintain this new position. This may also involve orthodontic treatment.

Muscle pain and spasms can be relieved using Ultra Low-Frequency Transcutaneous Electrical Neural Stimulation or ULF-TENS. During treatment, we place electrodes on your jaw, neck, and shoulder areas to transmit mild electrical stimulation. This stimulation causes the muscles to contract repeatedly, which ultimately relaxes them.

We may also recommend the use of an oral appliance, such as a mouthguard, to help stabilize your bite. A mouthguard can keep you from grinding your teeth in your sleep. This will reduce the effects of bruxism. Medications, such as muscle relaxants, aspirin, and over-the-counter pain relievers can also alleviate symptoms.

Schedule a Consultation

If you think you may suffer from TMJ, call (425) 249-3509, and schedule your consultation today!
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