TMJ Treatment & Headache Relief

You may have heard someone say that they have TMJ. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, which is the joint that moves the lower jaw. There are no TMJ treatment specialists in Victoria, and very few programs across the country in fact. That doesn’t lessen the need, as there are many TMJ patients who need dental TMJ treatment in Victoria, TX and headache relief from teeth grinding. I have sought further training from numerous TMJ specialists and at the Pankey Institute so that I can help my patients that suffer from TMJ disorder.

Our TMJ Headache Treatment Philosophy

I myself have suffered from TMJ disorder too, so I know what it feels like to be the patient as well as the treating dentist. I also know that it can and will get better if properly treated. There is not a one size fits all TMJ treatment for TMJ pain, as it is individual for each patient. Most patients respond well to a bite splint as I demonstrate below in photos. Some might require us to modify the design, use a different appliance or even in some cases involve a physical therapist to get us the last bit of relief needed.  As for myself, I did fantastic with the night time splint. But I was also clenching during the day and was not even aware of doing it. I used  Invisalign orthodontics in order to reposition my upper molars in line with the other molars. In my case when I had braces as a child they did not bracket the second molars and they contacted prematurely. This damaged the teeth and gums, therefore I moved them where they should have been all along and TMJ symptoms went away.

TMJ Symptoms

This is an in-depth topic with so many different treatments and theories that I could not begin to cover them all here. I will give you the gist of what it is and what to do about it.

TMJ disorder (or TMD) is basically dysfunction with or without pain anywhere in the teeth and or the joint. Sounds a little confusing right? There is a wide variety of signs and symptoms. Some people may not have pain but may have TMJ damage. Others may have headaches or migraines or pain in the ear. Many will hear or feel a clicking noise near the ear when eating or opening the mouth. The teeth may be sore with no visual sign of why they are sore. Ringing in the ears or pain in the ear can also be symptoms. Unexplained pain behind the eyes can be a symptom too. There are numerous studies indicating that a high percentage of patients who have TMJ are grinding their teeth due to a breathing disorder or sleep apnea.

An excellent video that shows both the correlation between possible airway disruptions and grinding that leads to TMJ disorder and other problems.

TMJ Treatment

There are too many variations of the above to list, so let’s talk about TMJ treatments that we offer in our Victoria, TX dental office.

A bite splint being worn by a TMJ patient

Bite Splint: During the adjustment procedure different colors are used so we can precisely adjust the splint.

In dental school, we were taught to make a “night guard”. This worked most of the time, but sometimes patients didn’t have the same success as others. If you notice, we call them “splints” rather than night guards. This is because we are trying to reposition the jaw joint up into its proper anatomical position in the socket, which is the most restful position for the joint while at the same time the teeth have even contact on the splint.

Some patients will sometimes try the store bought night guards from the grocery store out of desperation for some relief. They have the right idea and sometimes they may get some temporary relief. But what they typically find out is that they may either be uncomfortable and wear out quickly, or it may help for a while and then stop helping. These temporary guards are made of softer plastic that the points of the teeth can sink into. This can have a tendency to make the patient clench into it more and sometimes escalate the symptoms.

Cold Laser TMJ Therapy

Using the special Deep Tissue Healing Laser Tip that you see to the left, we can use the cold laser to stop acute TMJ pain. It also accelerates the healing process of the ligaments and other tissues in the TMJ. It does so by improving mitochondrial function and lymph drainage.

The cold laser as the name implies does not cut or burn and is not painful to use. In fact, it typically stops the pain. We can use it not only on the TMJ but any and all associated muscles that are painfully involved with the TMJ symptoms.

Other names for this laser treatment are Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT), Photobiomodulation, or photobiostimulation. They all mean the same thing. Laser light is used at a low level that does no damage to tissues but has an effect on the tissues by stimulating healing and reducing pain signals.

TMJ ProfileTMJ Problems Due To A Bad Bite

The “ball” of the ball and socket joint of the jaw can be positioned out of the socket to some degree by the muscles. This is usually done to avoid a tooth that may be hitting harder than the others. It can also be positioned this way so that all the teeth can come together at the same time. Some reasons why the difference in where the teeth come together and the jaw not being in the socket can occur naturally from habit or as a result of braces if it was not taken into account during orthodontics.

Sleep Disordered Breathing ( Sleep Apnea) is Associated Teeth Grinding and TMJ

Sleep Apnea is another condition that is correlated with nocturnal teeth grinding. There is a high degree of correlation between nighttime teeth grinding and breathing issues like sleep apnea. Intermittent between the non-breathing episodes, there will often be severe teeth grinding which is the body’s mechanism to open the airway and get more oxygen into the bloodstream. So, sleep breathing disorders are a common cause of TMJ and severely worn teeth.

Read more about this topic on our sleep apnea and dental snoring treatment page.

If you suspect that you or someone you know has TMJ disorder, it is not something that you have to live with. Long term, there can be serious damage to the joint and the teeth, as well as headaches of unknown origin. We can treat this condition with our bite splint and other noninvasive treatments in our Victoria dentist office please call (361) 573-7722