Frequent headaches, neck and jaw pain, worn teeth, and a clicking or popping jaw can all be signs of a temporomandibular disorder, commonly referred to as TMJ. Dr. Pamela Doray is one of the few dentists in Philadelphia with the training and experience to treat this complex problem.
Dr. Doray’s goal is to help patients achieve optimal oral health, which includes a comfortable and stable bite. Depending on your specific condition, there may be a variety of treatment options. Treatment for TMJ Disorder often includes other specialists such as your general practitioner and/or physical therapist. There are a number of lifestyle changes that could benefit your condition as well.
What is TMJ Disorder?
To start, understand that the term TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint, which is located in front of your ears and responsible for the opening and closing of the mouth. TMJ Disorder (TMD) is a complex problem in which the jaw joints and/or teeth do not fit together properly. The improper function often leads to an imbalance of the bite, which can contribute to tooth wear, gum disease, headaches, earaches and other physiological problems.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
Part of what makes TMD complex is that there is no single cause. Any number of factors or combination of factors may be to blame including:
- Trauma to the head, neck, or face
- Trauma to the TMJ joint or arthritis
- Hormonal changes or imbalances
- Malocclusion (where the jaws do not line up correctly resulting in bite problems)
What are the symptoms of TMJ Disorder?
As with the causes, symptoms of TMJ disorder vary greatly between patients. TMJ symptoms often mask themselves or are similar to those of other medical conditions, making diagnosis difficult.
Most commonly, patients with TMD will experience one or several of the following signs or symptoms:
- Teeth grinding or clenching, often characterized by tooth wear
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Limited mobility in the jaw
- Clicking or popping when opening or closing jaw
- Facial Pain
What is the treatment for TMJ Disorder?
It is important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for treating TMJ disorder. Treatment is largely dependent on the individual, their signs and symptoms.
Common dental therapies include:
Mouth Guard & Splint Therapy
A mouth guard or dental splint may be used to alleviate specific symptoms of TMJ disorder. This type of treatment is often a first step and not needed as a long term solution. A dental split can be helpful to help identify a comfortable and stable bite position.
Bite Correction Procedures
When appropriate, Dr. Doray may perform occlusal equilibration – or bite correction, to bring the teeth into proper contact. This will allows the jaw to open and close in its proper position and eliminate stress on the joints and resulting pain.
This process is a series of adjustments made to the teeth which may include:
- Reshaping teeth
- Applying dental crowns or porcelain veneers
- Orthodontic treatment
- Implant dentistry
If the teeth are not in proper position, orthodontics may be needed to reposition the teeth, allowing them to fit together harmoniously. For adults who wish to avoid traditional metal braces, Dr. Doray offers Invisalign braces for more discreet and comfortable treatment.
Restorative & Cosmetic Dentistry
In cases where teeth have been significantly worn and damaged restorative dentistry may be needed to bring the teeth back to their proper health and beauty. Dr. Doray may use dental crowns, porcelain veneers, or cosmetic bonding to restore teeth.
Has your bite ever felt uncomfortable after dental treatment? If so then you will understand why Dr. Doray uses the computerized Tekscan Occlusal Diagnostic System. Most patients are familiar with the carbon marking paper that their dentists have used to check their bite.
Tekscan is an additional tool that allows Dr. Doray to diagnose and adjust the bite with much greater precision than that afforded by marking paper alone. This is especially important for the creation of a comfortable bite for the patient and also for protection of new restorations such as porcelain veneers, porcelain crowns and dental implants.
Dr. Doray uses a Doppler device to evaluate the temporomandibular joints (TMJ’s) easily and comfortably for her patients. In minutes the Doppler provides ultrasound information that helps Dr. Doray to determine whether the joints are healthy or not and whether further evaluation is needed. This is especially important for patients with symptoms of jaw pain and certain types of headaches.
It can also be valuable as a screening evaluation prior to orthodontic, restorative or cosmetic treatment to ensure healthy and comfortable TMJ’s during and after treatment.