TMJ and Neuromuscular Dentistry

Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, and Lincolnshire

Temporomandibular joint disorder, also referred to as TMJ disorder or TMJD, affects millions of people. The symptoms of TMJ disorder are far-reaching and often are misdiagnosed as migraines or chronic headaches. It may stem from arthritis, a facial or jaw injury, or missing teeth. Crooked teeth also could be to blame for causing jaw pain. The temporomandibular joint connects your lower jaw to your skull. Despite its small stature, if this joint enters a state of dysfunction, it can have a significant impact on your oral health and even cause debilitating pain that impedes your ability to function every day. Many general practitioners are unskilled in identifying and treating cases of TMJ disorder, which means that patients are left masking their pain with medication, never actually getting to the source of their problem.
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For patients who suffer from TMJD, relief is available at the dentist. Neuromuscular dentists, Drs. Douglas Campbell and David Schmidt of Lake Forest Smiles, have undergone specialized training and rigorous post-graduate education, making them experts at diagnosing and treating TMJ disorder.

What is TMJ disorder?

TMJ disorder may begin as jaw popping and clicking, intermittent pain in the jaw joints, and headaches. Eventually, without treatment, TMJ disorder manifests as ringing in the ears, tingling arms and fingers, neck and back pain, and painful teeth, among other symptoms. Neuromuscular dentists are the most qualified physicians to diagnose and treat TMJ disorder. If you think that you have TMJD or want to schedule a consultation, we invite you to contact Lake Forest Smiles today.

Why Neuromuscular Dentistry Makes a Difference

Our neuromuscular dentists in Lake Forest, Drs. Campbell and Schmidt have undergone extensive post-graduate education focusing on airway health, jaw joint equilibrium, and how these factors affect oral health and overall health. Drs. Campbell and Schmidt have trained at the world-renowned Las Vegas Institute, LVI, learning about the physiological aspect of dentistry.

What does this mean?

Think of your vehicle, and how the tires need a precise amount of air, and the wheels need to be properly aligned for a smooth ride to prevent long-term damage from occurring to your vehicle. Equilibrium is necessary for your body, too, specifically your jaws joints and bite. You may not feel like your jaw is out of alignment, but chronic headaches and dental pain are a sign that something is not right.

What is neuromuscular dentistry?

Drs. Campbell and Schmidt have made neuromuscular dentistry a fundamental aspect of their Lake Forest dental practice. As neuromuscular dentists, they understand how the teeth, jaw joints, and muscles are an integrated system that requires balance to function properly. If you have jaw joint misalignment, our doctors will develop a treatment plan that restores your bite, leaving you without chronic headaches and dental pain.

How can tiny jaw joints cause significant pain?

You may be wondering how crooked teeth or a missing tooth could lead to jaw pain that eventually causes chronic headaches or even back pain. Well, we are glad you asked! The human body craves balance. A back injury could cause hip, knee, and even ankle pain because the body is designed to compensate for areas that are lacking. In most cases, this results in overuse, strain, and chronic inflammation of overworked muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Here is how bite imbalance affects the jaw joint and causes such widespread pain.

Intimately located near the jaw joints is a prominent nerve, the trigeminal. The jaw joints also are home to blood vessels, cartilage, and tendons. Just like any other joint in the body, if an injury occurs or there is a musculature imbalance, inflammation and pain will surface. Since the trigeminal nerve runs from the jaw joints to the head, and then to the spinal cord, it sends pain signals to the brain, or down the spine as a result of being compressed, inflamed, or aggravated by the jaw joints.

The Effects of TMJD

The symptoms of TMJD can vary widely from person to person, but one of the most common effects of the disorder is some variety of pain—often severe or chronic. This may manifest as pain in the jaw, face, or neck, or in the form of severe, frequently occurring headaches. These headaches often are misdiagnosed as migraines. Drs. Campbell and Schmidt also explain TMJ headaches in more depth, as well as the difference between TMJ headaches and migraines.

Other common symptoms of TMJD include:

  • Dizziness and/or vertigo
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Hearing a clicking or popping sound in the jaw as it opens and closes
  • Having a limited range of motion in the jaw
  • Misaligned bite
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Bruxism (teeth clenching and grinding)
  • Pressure or pain behind the eyes
  • Poor posture
  • Lockjaw

Other symptoms of TMJ disorder can be found here. Please know that TMJ disorder could be responsible for chronic pain of all types, including those diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Research shows that nearly 90% of fibromyalgia sufferers also experience TMJ disorder. If you experience frequent headaches or chronic pain of any type, Lake Forest Smiles recommends scheduling a consultation with our Lincolnshire area neuromuscular dentists.

How is TMJ disorder diagnosed?

At Lake Forest Smiles, we employ trailblazing technology to determine the precise misalignment of your jaw. These results allow Drs. Campbell and Schmidt to develop the most accurate treatment plan. Digital x-rays and a thorough examination also play a role in diagnosing TMJ disorder.

Treatments for TMJ Disorder

Treating TMJ disorder varies depending on each case. A consultation with Lake Forest Smiles will determine which treatments are best for you.

Here are some of the most common treatments that have proven effective at relieving TMJ disorder

  • Replacing missing teeth – A single missing tooth could throw off your bite, causing jaw joint pain. Restoring bite equilibrium may involve replacing missing teeth with a dental bridge, partial denture, or dental implants.
  • Adjusting occlusion – Bite misalignment is a common cause of TMJ disorder. This treatment option may involve adjusting teeth or dental restorations to create a harmonious bite. Reshaping teeth that are too long or that absorb the majority of your biting force may need to be adjusted to allow for evenly distributed biting pressure. This treatment involves removing such a small amount of tooth structure that anesthetic often is not required.
  • Orthodontics – Misaligned teeth affect your occlusion, or how your teeth come together when you bite and chew. Orthodontics or Invisalign may help restore your occlusion and relieve TMJD.
  • Oral splint – Also known as an oral appliance, splints are specially fabricated to hold your jaw into a precise position to relieve jaw joint stress and pain related to TMJ disorder. The splint may be adjustable by your dentist, and you will be instructed on how long and often you should wear it.
  • Full mouth reconstruction – In some cases, a full mouth reconstruction may be necessary. Using a combination of treatments, Drs. Campbell and Schmidt may recommend orthodontics, an oral split, and other measures to achieve optimal jaw joint balance.
  • TENS unit – This treatment sends electrical impulses to the nerves, creating a tingling or buzzing sensation on your skin. This medication-free treatment should not be uncomfortable, in fact, patients find that it relieves their pain immediately, and provides long-term benefits as well.

Is surgery required to treat TMJ disorder?

Not in all cases. Neuromuscular dentistry helps decrease the chance that you will need jaw surgery. Drs. Campbell and Schmidt offer TMJ disorder treatments that restore your bite and place the jaw into proper alignment. Surgery may only be recommended for the most severe cases after other solutions have been exhausted. If surgery is necessary, Lake Forest Smiles will refer you to a trusted oral surgeon.

 Will my TMJ disorder go away on its own?

Unfortunately, TMJ disorder requires treatment to stop the pain and restore occlusion. Ignoring TMJ disorder means that pain will get worse, and you may end up suffering more severe long-term consequences. TMJ disorder also is responsible for causing other health-related issues, such as obstructive sleep apnea, which is an airway disorder that restricts airflow while asleep. Untreated TMJ disorder may also result in broken or damaged teeth, tooth loss, low self-esteem, and malnutrition, as it may become difficult to chew nutritious foods. If you believe that you have TMJ disorder, or have already received a diagnosis and are not sure where to go from here, contact Lake Forest Smiles for a consultation.

TMJ Dentists in Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, and Lincolnshire

Despite the ramifications of TMJD on one’s health and lifestyle, sufferers could go decades—or even their entire lives—dealing with this disorder. There is no need for you to suffer in silence or accept subpar treatment. If you experience symptoms of TMJD, or have been diagnosed with the disorder by another medical professional, seek the care of a neuromuscular dentist as soon as possible. Schedule your consultation with Lake Forest Smiles by calling (847) 234-4800. Drs. Campbell and Schmidt have been providing elite dental care to the communities of Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, and Lincolnshire for more than 30 years. We welcome you to our practice.

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