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Sewell Dentist Treats TMJ Disorders

Relief from TMJD at Connolly Family Dentistry

At Connolly Family Dentistry in Sewell, NJ, we can treat your temporomandibular joint disorders. Do you suffer from an array of symptoms including dizziness, earaches, clicking of the jaw, pain in the face, head, neck, shoulders and/or back, without knowing the cause? These are some of the most common signs and symptoms of Temporal Mandibular Joint (TMJ) Dysfunction. Other symptoms of this disorder include excessive wear and fracturing of teeth and tooth loss. Previously, many patients seeking medical cures for these types of problems would go from specialist to specialist to ultimately be told it was “all in their mind.” Most often, after years of unsuccessful treatment, these individuals accepted and tolerated their discomfort and pain, usually with the aid of over the counter drugs, such as aspirin, Motrin or Tylenol.

Today, the condition termed TMJ or TMD (Temporal Mandibular Dysfunction) accounts for a large number of these previously incurable and painful ailments. The above mentioned discomforts are just some of the symptoms of the syndrome--not the problem itself. Without correcting the initiating problem (damage or misalignment of the jaw joint), the symptoms of TMD will return. The doctors at  Connolly Family Dentistry are passionate about properly evaluating and treating our patients so that they remain symptom free.

With new knowledge and technology, dentists are currently able to diagnose and treat TMJ problems that had previously been over-looked or misdiagnosed. Additionally, the medical community has become more aware of dentistry’s involvement in diagnosing and treating TMJ dysfunction, and more and more physicians are now referring patients to dentists for proper evaluation and treatment.

At our Sewell dental practice, we have been trained in the diagnosis and treatment of TMJ dysfunction. Drs. Connolly, McCarty, and Connolly have completed the intensive and challenging continuing education courses offered by Dr. Peter Dawson for the evaluation of occlusion (how you bite). In addition, they have studied under internationally renowned Dr. Mark Piper, focusing specifically on the anatomy and physiology of the TMJ, pathology, diagnosis and treatment options.

Malocclusion and the Temporal Mandibular Joint

Your jaw joint, which holds your lower jaw in place, is suspended beneath your skull by an intricate system of muscles and tendons. The jaw joints, also known as the Temporal Mandibular Joints (TMJ) are some of the most complex in the body. The jaw joints, surrounding muscles, and the fit of your teeth are closely interrelated, each affecting the other as you make everyday jaw movements such as speaking and chewing.

Occlusion is the term used to describe the way your teeth fit together. When your teeth are not in proper relation to each other and to your jaw joints, the jaw automatically shifts to a new position in an attempt to compensate for the misalignment of your teeth – a condition known as malocclusion (teeth that do not fit together properly). Ideally, the teeth should fit together in a comfortable relationship so that there is no need for the jaw to reposition itself in order to avoid pain and muscle discomfort. When malocclusion exists, the jaw shifts to accommodate the teeth, which puts pressure on other jaw joint areas. The body attempts to compensate for the misalignment of the jaw by using the muscles of the face and neck to help pull the joint into the proper position. Consequently, the patient may clench or grind their teeth; they may notice premature tooth wear, tooth fracturing or tooth loss, and stress (pain) in the muscles and tendons of the face and neck. Eventually, the muscles of the face, jaw and neck fatigue and the body calls on the muscles of the back and shoulders to compensate. Patients may then also experience muscular aches, pain in the face, neck, shoulders and back, dizziness, earaches, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and headaches. Headaches, including migraine and tension headaches, may have a direct correlation to the specific anatomy and physiology of your temporal mandibular joint. Be sure to discuss your headache history with your dentist.

Patients with TMD may hear a loud “click” when they open their jaw wide to eat or speak. A clicking or popping jaw is not normal. The click signifies the displacement of the cartilaginous disc that normally resides between the bones of the jaw to provide cushion and support. Without this support, the bony structures of the jaw will deteriorate causing pain and difficulty in opening and closing the mouth. The clicking can be embarrassing, painful, and may progress to more serious problems.

TMJ Disc Location

Malocclusion is a very common condition causing pain in the area of the Temporal Mandibular Joint. Other health problems, including arthritis, diabetes, tumors, nutritional deficiencies, trauma and infection, can also be responsible for TMJ discomfort. It is also notable that many TMJ patients have had previous orthodontic therapy (braces), so be sure to report any of the aforementioned signs and symptoms to Connolly Family Dentistry in Sewell, NJ, even after your braces have been removed.

Diagnosing and Treating the Problem

Many patients present for routine check-ups totally pain free, while some experience discomfort and popping or clicking in their ears. Others exhibit excessive wear of their anterior teeth, to the degree of totally obliterating the tooth enamel (the hardest substance in the human body). These are signs and symptoms of TMJ dysfunction. Our Sewell TMJD-trained dentists cannot stress enough that TMD, like tooth decay and periodontal disease, is progressive. The condition will not self-eliminate, but rather, it will worsen over time. TMJ deterioration occurs at different rates for every individual. Once a patient is symptomatic, the underlying dysfunction has usually been in existence for a long time, unless caused by a sudden, traumatic injury such as a jaw fracture or whiplash.

Before correctly diagnosing and then prescribing the proper treatment for a specific TMJ problem, a variety of diagnostic procedures, including X-rays and a complete occlusal analysis, may be necessary. An MRI may be taken of the jaw joint if deemed necessary by your dentist. The MRI will provide a clear picture of the patient’s unique TMJ anatomy and the position of the various structures within the jaw joint. It will also allow your dentist to detect any disease processes within the jaw joint. The doctors at Connolly Family Dentistry are among the very few dentists in the area that are trained to interpret an MRI.

The treatment of TMJ dysfunction is completely individualized. There is no single therapy or drug regimen that is universally beneficial. Jaw re-positioners (i.e. a Bruxing appliance) may be used to help ameliorate symptoms and reverse TMD. Such appliances, which are similar to a mouthguard, are worn for a given period of time as directed by our Sewell, NJ dentists. The appliance is refined and adjusted until it eliminates the bite disharmony and pain. Permanent treatment that would attempt to duplicate the effects of the appliance would then be prescribed. Other treatment techniques include equilibration, occlusal adjustment, orthodontics, certain medications, restorative procedures such as crowns, or a combination of some or all of the above.

For families who live in  Sewell, Mullica Hill, Washington Township, and all surrounding areas, we offer state-of-the-art TMJ care. Please make an appointment at Connolly Family Dentistry, and find relief from your jaw joint problems today!