The temporomandibular joint is the connection between your jawbone and skull. This joint is particularly complex because it allows the jaw to move in many ways for everyday activities such as speech, eating, drinking, laughing, and yawning. But when the jaw doesn’t properly align with the skull, this joint can become stressed and lead to numerous conditions that are collectively called TMJ disorder, or simply TMJ.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
Disorders of the temporomandibular joint are often related to the alignment of your jaw. Bruxism (clenching or grinding of the teeth) can aggravate even a slight misalignment of the jaw. Stress can cause you to clench your jaw or tighten your facial muscles, worsening TMJ symptoms. In many instances, TMJ is caused by trauma to the jaw region.
What Are The Symptoms Of TMJ?
TMJ disorders can present a wide variety of symptoms. These vary from person to person and depend upon your unique condition. Many symptoms do not intuitively point toward a dental problem. For this reason, the condition is often misdiagnosed by doctors who are not familiar with the disorder.
Common TMJ symptoms include:
- Jaw pain
- Facial, neck, or shoulder pain
- Ear pain or ringing
- Difficulty chewing
- Limited jaw mobility
- Migraine headaches
- Facial swelling
- Locking of the jaw joint
- Clicking or popping sound in the jaw joint when opening or closing your mouth
Depending on the circumstances surrounding your TMJ disorder, you may experience one or more of these symptoms. Your unique combination of TMJ symptoms will vary depending on the severity and type of your jaw misalignment. Dr. Heather Fleschler has extensive training in the principles of neuromuscular dentistry. This enables her to effectively diagnose and treat your condition, alleviating your painful symptoms and restoring a proper bite.
How Do You Diagnose TMJ Disorder?
Dr. Fleschler uses the principles of neuromuscular dentistry to diagnose TMJ disorder. Neuromuscular dentistry is the field of dentistry associated with the function and alignment of the muscles, joints, and ligaments in your jaw. Dr. Fleschler conducts a thorough examination and discussion of your history that will help rule out other possible causes of your pain. She also administers several screenings to determine whether your pain is being caused by TMJ disorder, including:
- Detailed TMJ screening
- Craniofacial pain screening
- Musculoskeletal screening
- K7 electromyography
If these screenings indicate that your symptoms are the result of TMJ disorder, Dr. Fleschler devises a customized treatment plan to help alleviate your pain and restore your bite to its proper alignment. In many instances, this includes the creation of a custom neuromuscular orthotic that moves your jaw to its ideal resting position.
K7 Neuromuscular Evaluation System
When your jaw isn’t properly aligned, the jaw joint can become irritated and your mouth may not open and close properly, often leading to TMJ disorder. In order to provide the best possible TMJ treatment, Dr. Fleschler uses the K7 Neuromuscular Evaluation System from Myotronics.
The K7 Neuromuscular Evaluation System is a complex computer system that combines three very precise instruments to determine the most relaxed, physiologic position for your jaw. This helps Dr. Fleschler arrive at the most comfortable bite position for you and to determine your treatment plan to relieve your painful TMJ symptoms.
The three instruments that comprise the K7 system include:
- Computerized Mandibular Scanner: Monitors jaw movement in three dimensions and measures the speed at which your jaw opens and closes
- Electromyography (EMG): Records the electrical impulses emitted by your jaw muscles to determine the extent which your muscles are being strained due to jaw misalignment
- Electrosonography: Uses very precise directional microphones to analyze the clicking, popping, and grinding sounds emitted from your jaw when it is in motion
Many of the painful symptoms caused by TMJ are experienced in other regions of the body, causing many patients to erroneously seek other forms of treatment first. Using K7 technology, Dr. Fleschler can perform a thorough TMJ evaluation and help you find the relief you are seeking. Common symptoms that many people do not think to see a dentist for, but which should be treated by neuromuscular dentistry, include:
- Migraine headaches
- Neck pain
- Back pain
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Numbness of the arms or hands
- Pain behind or around the eyes
TMJ Relief Options
Once you’ve been diagnosed, Dr. Fleschler devises a customized treatment plan to help alleviate your TMJ-related pain.
Techniques used to alleviate the pain associated with TMJ disorder include:
- Over-the-counter NSAID pain relievers such as ibuprofen
- Muscle relaxants
- Eating a diet of soft foods to prevent strain on your jaw muscles
- Moist heat
- Muscle exercises
- Transcutaneous Electrical Neural Stimulation (TENS) therapy to relax the muscles of the head and neck
Once your symptoms have been alleviated, long-term relief is accomplished by addressing the underlying cause of your bite misalignment and Dr. Fleschler implements treatment to correct the problem.
Your improved bite relationship may be stabilized using:
- Long-term neuromuscular orthotic
- Occlusal equilibration
- Full bite reconstruction
- Neuromuscular orthodontics
Neuromuscular orthodontics considers all of the complex factors associated with your facial network of bones, joints, and muscles to help restore the ideal resting position of your jaw while simultaneously straightening your teeth. This approach more effectively addresses the underlying issues causing your bite alignment problems than traditional orthodontics treatment, which focuses primarily on repositioning your teeth in order to improve issues associated with crowding and crookedness.
This procedure can provide you with an optimal bite position, straight, beautiful teeth, and can help alleviate many of the painful symptoms associated with TMJ. Dr. Fleschler uses the principles of neuromuscular dentistry to identify the ideal resting position for your jaw muscles through:
- Photographs, x-rays, and models: Develops a comprehensive skeletal and facial analysis that provides insight into the way your joints, teeth, and muscles work together
- Transcutaneous electrical neural stimulation (TENS) therapy: Relaxes your jaw muscles and repositions them into their ideal resting position
- K7 neuromuscular evaluation system: Uses electromyography, jaw tracking, and joint sonography to provide a more detailed assessment of your ideal bite position
Once your ideal jaw positioning has been identified, Dr. Fleschler develops a customized orthodontic treatment plan that eliminates the negative forces causing your teeth and bite to become misaligned. Potential treatment options may include:
- Traditional braces
- Arch expanders
TMJ And Migraines Treatment
TMJ Migraines Treatment | Houston TMJ DentistDr. Fleschler’s philosophy for treating migraines associated with TMJ is based on a neuromuscular approach that focuses on determining your optimal jaw positioning. With today’s technology, it’s much easier to measure muscle function and correlate it to a proper jaw posture and its movement function. With the correct positioning of the jaw, pain associated with migraines that are caused by TMJ can be minimized or oftentimes eliminated.
Once a diagnosis is determined, your TMJ treatment begins to restore harmony between your upper and lower jaw. Restoring your ideal bite may include:
- Dental restorations
- Orthotic treatment
- Basic lifestyle changes
- Pain- free diagnostic process
Dr. Fleschler uses a variety of diagnostic tools to determine whether your migraine headaches are being caused by TMJ:
- Electromyography: Small pads placed on your face and neck analyze the electrical activity within muscles associated with both the posture of your jaw and neck. This helps to see if they are fatigued and how each muscle group relates to not only your jaw alignment but also your posture.
- Sonography: Electrical sonography to study the sounds emitted by your jaw joint movements to uncover irregularities undetectable with other types of testing.
- K7 Computerized Jaw Scanning: Uses magnetic technology to measure and record movements of the jaw, and to help estimate your ideal jaw position.
- Myo-Monitor: A safe, electrical impulse relaxes and stimulates jaw muscles to evaluate the movements that occur during different muscle activity phases.
Symptoms of TMJ often do not go away without treatment and can eventually lead to head, neck, back, and shoulder problems.
Schedule A Consultation
Concerned you may be suffering from TMJ? Please contact Dr. Heather Fleschler using the form on this page or by calling 713-660-6500 today to schedule your initial appointment. We proudly serve patients in Sugar Land, Pasadena and the Houston, Texas areas of West University, Bellaire, Meyerland, and River Oaks.