Neuromuscular dentistry is an advanced form of dentistry that addresses misalignments and dysfunctions of the temporomandibular joint and its surround muscles and tissues. Instead of merely alleviating the symptoms of TMJ, neuromuscular dentistry makes a direct approach to treating the underlying problem causing TMJ symptoms. Neuromuscular dentistry is founded upon the understanding that the muscles, joints and nerves in and around the jaw are interconnected, and a single complication in one area of the mouth and jaw can hinder the function of the other areas.
Short for temporomandibular joint disorder, TMJ syndrome is an inflammation or soreness in the muscles surrounding the jaw and temporomandibular joint. The condition is almost always accompanied by uncomfortable symptoms, such as clicking or popping of the jaw, headaches, migraines, chronic jaw pain, chewing discomfort, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). In some cases, TMJ can even cause neck and back pain, which can inhibit the ability to comfortably perform day-to-day tasks.
Although bite occlusions, facial trauma and tooth disorders can cause TMJ, one of the most common causes is bruxism, or unconscious grinding of the teeth. Night grinding can include rubbing the teeth along each other, often so much so that others nearby can hear or be awakened by the unpleasant grinding noise associated with bruxism. Night grinding can also refer to simple clenching of the teeth, which places pressure on the temporomandibular joint and the surrounding muscles.
A visit to a neuromuscular dentist starts with highly technological graphing of the mouth and its natural bite to determine imbalances and discrepancies that are causing TMJ syndrome. A thorough diagnosis typically involves relaxing the jaw muscles to find a patient’s natural resting point, which will help determine the best treatment for repositioning the jaw to an optimal placement.
In some cases, treatment may start by removing obstructions causing TMJ syndrome, such as impacted wisdom teeth or scar tissue. In many cases, however, surgery is not necessary, and instead, the patient is fitted with an orthodic designed to reposition the jaw to its optimum position. The dentist will discuss further treatment options, which may also include long-term orthodic use or restorative surgeries.
The good news for TMJ patients is that there are alternative and more effective solutions to treating the headaches, migraines, back pain, neck pain, jaw pain and other discomfort associated with temporomandibular joint disorder than resorting to anti-inflammatory drugs and pain medications. In fact, many TMJ patients find that the annoying symptoms they’ve lived with for so long begin to subside very quickly once a neuromuscular dentist assesses and begins treating the problem.