Do you suffer or do you know someone who suffers from pain around the ears, tenderness in the jaw, limited or painful jaw popping, clicking, popping or sandy noises on opening the mouth, head aches or neck aches? If so, you are one of the more than fifteen percent of American adults who suffer from chronic facial pain possibly caused by a TMJ Disorder. Your teeth are just the visible endpoint of a complex system of relationships between bones, muscles, ligaments, nerves and blood vessels. That’s why many of the above can be treated by a dentist.
Most headache or facial pain sufferers are on a medical merry-go-round in their quest for pain relief. Because symptoms of TMJ (jaw joint problems) and associated craniofacial pain syndrome can masquerade as so many other conditions, it is often difficult to diagnose. Your headache, ear or facial pain could be generated by your jaw joints, bite and spasm in the associated facial musculature. A team approach and open communication with physicians and other health care professionals bring effective “team management” to the patient.
Our office goal is to determine the proper diagnosis and offer appropriate treatment to combat the head, neck and facial pain effectively and successfully. First the focus is no addressing the pain, second, to regain full function and third to stabilize the patient.
What is TMJ Disorder?
A TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) disorder is simply a disruption in the action of the jaw, usually accompanied by pain. Two joints, several jaw muscles and ligaments allow you to open and close your mouth. They work together when you chew, speak, swallow and breathe. Your TMJ is the most flexible, yet sophisticated joint in the human body. If this joint and associated structures are atypical, it can lead to dysfunction and chronic discomfort. Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working together properly may result in a TMJ disorder affecting the structures of chewing, swallowing, breathing and speech.
TMJ symptoms and signs may include any of the following:
- Click, pop or grating sound in the jaw joints
- Limited jaw opening or locking
- Earaches, congestion or ringing ears
- Pain when chewing
- Facial pain
- Neck pain or stiffness and/or throat pain
State-of-the Art Diagnosis
At Contemporary Family Dentistry, one of our areas of expertise is in the diagnosis and treatment of TMJ disorders. To determine if dental stress is the source of your pain, we will examine your teeth, muscles and jaw joints. To clearly understand the mechanics of your jaw and help identify the source of the pain, we will gather data through appropriate x-rays and precise imaging scans using state-of-the-art 3-D i-CAT imaging systems, Joint Vibration Analysis (JVA), Electromyography (EMG) and Acoustic Reflection technology.
Effective Personalized Treatment
Patients benefit from the non-surgical, conservative treatment this office provides. In most cases, non-drug treatment is suggested, including a custom-fit oral device – a splint (or orthotic) made of clear acrylic. This easy-to-wear splint fits over the top or bottom teeth. Its main purpose is to eliminate muscle spasm and pain which occurs with bite imbalance. The splint also stabilizes the TM joints.
Medication, physical modality therapy, stress management and/or referral to other health care providers are utilized on an as needed basis. Acute headaches and pain can be immediately relieved many times with trigger point of ligament injections. Once pain is controlled and the jaw joint is stabilized, the bite is balanced so the teeth, muscles and joints all work together in harmony – without strain or pain. Our office believes strongly in conservative, non-surgical care for TMJ treatment!
Putting technology to work for patients:
Patients are increasingly demanding real-time treatment options instant crowns, veneers, over-dentures, implants and braces their time is limited and they want the most efficient dental and medical treatment possible. They also understand the use of technology to provide consistent, accurate and fast information. Together, these two drivers increase the demand for a high-technology, accurate, fast imaging system.
Contemporary Family Dentistry now offers the latest in patient care technology an i-CAT Cone Beam 3-D Dental Imaging System which allows us to work with referring physicians to provide the best, most accurate patient care.
Why 3-D Dental Imaging?
Where traditional imaging systems are limited by distortion, magnification changes, restricted clarity, lack of accuracy in measurements and not allowing for 3-D modeling, the i-CAT System images provide high-definition, three-dimensional, digital data on precise anatomical information of all oral and maxillofacial structures. The scan can be obtained in 20 seconds with very low doses of radiation to the patient. We are fortunate to be able to provide cost effective imaging for you and your patients.
The i-CAT Imaging system can be used to provide distortion-free, 3-D views of:
- Implant Studies
- Tooth Impaction
- Orthognathic Surgery
- TMJ Analysis
- Airway Studies
- Upper Spinal Studies
- Oral Surgery
- Sleep Apnea
Teeth Gringing & Clenching
Do you clench or grind your teeth?
Approximately 44 million Americans suffer from chronic teeth grinding and clenching, a condition called bruxism, which often results in tooth damage. Many people are unaware that they are grinding their teeth because it most often happens while they sleep. They may wake with a headache, toothache, earache or sore muscles of the jaw and head region. But often, the condition goes undetected until the affected individual is alerted by a family member or by a dentist who notices symptoms..
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism affects men, women and children and can develop at any age. Three out of 10 kids grind or clench their teeth usually before the age of 5. Although the exact causes of bruxism are not well documented, several factors are involved. With children, the condition can be a response to jaw growth, losing or getting new teeth, ailments such as allergies or ear infections, malocclusion or airway obstruction. In children as well as adults, stress often contributes to bruxism. Other factors include sleeping problems, an abnormal bite or a collapsed bite and airway due to missing teeth.
Effects of Bruxism:
In rare cases, bruxism does not cause any damage. But if the grinding is severe and frequent, it can result in worn down tooth enamel, chipped teeth, abractions (pictured above), increase in temperature sensitivity, erosion of gums and supporting bones, breakage of fillings or other dental work, TMJ dysfunction, and muscle tension in the face, head and shoulder regions. All of which have a negative impact on the appearance of the patients smile.
Diagnosis and treatment:
At Contemporary Family Dentistry, one of our areas of expertise is in the diagnosis and treatment of bruxism. Regular dental checkups are important to detect damage in the early stages. We can diagnose and treat irregular wear on teeth and determine the source of the facial pain that may result from bruxism.
Based on the examination and diagnosis, one or more treatments may be recommended. A custom-made appliance can be worn while sleeping. Designed to fit your teeth, the custom-made appliance is a small, simple device that fits securely and comfortably on your upper teeth or lower front teeth and prevents contact between the upper and lower molars. Other treatments may involve reducing high spots on the teeth to even the bite or possibly reshaping the biting surfaces with inlays or crowns. In some cases of daytime bruxism, a small appliance that fits the lower front teeth is also necessary.
Cold Laser Therapy
The majority of practitioners associate the use of lasers in medicine with their applicability in surgery. However, nowadays there are numerous other well-known possibilities for the therapeutic use of lasers in the dental arts. One of the more exciting fields is that of biostimulation, the so-called laser therapy.
Laser therapy is the application of intense, non-heating laser light for the purpose of activating cellular physiology and promoting tissue healing and proliferation. Laser therapy is a pain-free application, and can be used with practitioners and/or their staff. Used correctly, it will lead to positive clinical results, particularly with difficult to treat or poor healing conditions, with fewer complications, and no negative treatment side effects.
The goal of treatment is to correct the positioning of the teeth.
Braces or other appliances may be used to change the positioning or alignment of teeth and adjoining bones. Metal bands are placed around some teeth or metal, ceramic, or plastic bonds are attached to the surface of the teeth. Wires or springs apply force to the teeth. The alveolar bone (tooth sockets) responds to pressure by remodeling -- dissolving bone in front of the tooth and replacing bone behind the tooth. The same process occurs in the structure which connects the 23 bones of the cranium or head. Other appliances may be recommended instead of, or in addition to, braces.
Rough or irregular teeth may be adjusted down, reshaped, and bonded or capped. Misshapen restorations (fillings or crowns) and dental appliances should be repaired. Surgery may be required on rare occasions. This may include surgical reshaping to lengthen or shorten the jaw (orthognathic surgery). Wires may be used to stabilize the jaw bone (similar to surgical stabilization of jaw.)
Meticulous oral hygiene is vital during orthodontic treatment as well as regular visits to the general dentist. Plaque accumulates on orthodontic appliances and may permanently mark teeth or cause tooth decay if not properly cared for.
Retainers (appliances used to stabilize the teeth) may be required for an indefinite time to maintain the new position of the teeth.