Expert treatment for long-lasting pain relief.
What Are TMJ Disorders?
Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ/TMD) is a label that describes a group of linked conditions that share a number of symptoms. Once diagnosed, TMJ can be successfully treated.
Unfortunately, many of the symptoms are also very common among other conditions, which can lead to misdiagnosis. Many people with TMJ struggle to get a proper diagnosis, and that means they can spend years suffering needlessly.
At Bite Align, TMJ dentist Dr. Jennifer Stafford works hard to properly diagnose her patients. She has firsthand experience of what it feels like to be misdiagnosed and spend years with untreated TMJ.
TMJ is an umbrella term that is used to describe many closely related conditions that have overlapping symptoms. Currently, there are three types of TMJ that have been well-defined. These are:
- Myofascial pain disorder (MPD)
- Disc displacement (DD)
- Degenerative joint disease (DJD)
MPD is primarily a muscle condition where tense, strained muscles cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw.
MPD is the most common type of TMJ, and the most likely to cause far-reaching symptoms such as headaches, ringing in the ears, and facial pain. For example, one recent study found that 94% of patients with tinnitus had MPD. DD is when the cushioning disc in the jaw joint becomes displaced. This is the most common cause of joint popping or clicking, as well as irregular jaw motion and locked jaw.
DJD is when the joint is attacked by some form of arthritis.
It’s possible to have one, two, or all three types of TMJ.
TMJ can exhibit itself through many different symptoms. People with the condition often experience a combination of jaw symptoms, ear symptoms, head and neck symptoms, and even symptoms elsewhere in the body.
Some of the symptoms of TMJ include:
Irregular jaw motion
Jaw sounds: popping, clicking, or grinding
Limited jaw opening
Bite that feels off
Excessive tooth wear
Chipped or cracked teeth
Jaw clenching and grinding (bruxism)
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Feeling of a full ear
Vertigo or dizziness
Headaches (including tension and migraine headaches)
Neck stiffness and limited motion
Tingling and numbness in the fingers
Dr. Stafford is continuously studying TMJ and uses what she considers to be the best TMJ diagnosis method available. Proper TMJ diagnosis depends on a detailed medical history, a thorough physical exam, and objective data about your jaw. Using this combined approach, we can help more people understand the condition of their jaw.
- Medical History
Before your first appointment, we will ask you to fill out a detailed medical history. This will help us understand your experience with TMJ and related conditions.
We will ask you about your symptoms, as well as previous diagnoses of conditions that might be related or might be misdiagnosed.
- Physical Exam
After reading and talking to you about your medical history, Dr. Stafford will conduct a thorough physical exam.
She will look at your face, jaw, and teeth. She will then ask you to move in certain ways. She will listen to your jaw and other joints. She may palpate (feel) your muscles and joints. She may put pressure on specific places. During the exam, you are encouraged to talk about what you’re feeling and if anything hurts or feels strange.
- When will TMJ treatment provide relief?
Most patients experience some degree of immediate relief after initial treatment. Symptoms may recur until we provide long-term treatment. Then it can take several weeks before you reach maximum improvement.
- Imagery and Data
While the medical history and physical exam will illuminate many aspects of the condition of your jaw, there are many things that Dr. Stafford can’t see, hear, or feel. To supplement her exam, she might use tools and imaging to get more data. To image the jaw joint, she might recommend a CT scan (like a 3D x-ray) or MRI.
She might also use the K7 suite to analyze the jaw in several ways. The K7 includes a digital jaw tracker, which precisely shows your jaw movements in 3D so she can see any irregular motion. It also has electromyography, which measures the tension in your jaw muscles. Finally, it also includes electrosonography, an amplified digital measurement of your jaw sounds.
After looking at all the information she compiled, Dr. Stafford will give you a diagnosis as well as treatment recommendations. This might be a referral to a different professional, home treatment, or treatment at our office.
You can get relief from your symptoms. The first step is an accurate diagnosis. Please arrange an appointment at Bite Align, offering quality care from Fort Atkinson, WI.
HIT-6™ Headache Impact Test is a tool used to measure the impact headaches have on your ability to function on the job, at school, at home and in social situations.
"TMJ Specialist" is not officially recognized by the American Dental Association. Dr. Stafford is a general dentist with many years of training in TMJ and neuromuscular dentistry, even though the specialty is not officially recognized. However, Wisconsin requires the following statement. "Cosmetic dentistry, TMJ, Neuromuscular dentistry, and Aesthetic dentistry are specialty areas not recognized by the ADA that requires no specific educational training to advertise this service".