If you’ve been struggling with some odd symptoms involving your neck, face, mouth, and/or jaw, you may be suffering from what is known as TMJ or TMD. A temporomandibular joint; this joint acts like a hinge to open and close your jaw. The TMJ attaches your mandible to your skull, and you have one on both sides of your head. If your jaw hurts or clicks and pops when you chew, you may be wondering where to go for treatment.

TMD stands for “temporomandibular joint disorder(s)” and is often used interchangeably with TMJ. You may hear people complain about their TMJ or ask, “Whom should I see for treatment?” You may be surprised to learn that the best doctors are actually neuromuscular dentists.

TMD is often misdiagnosed or missed completely because the headaches are migraine-like in intensity, and some of the other symptoms resemble a condition known as Trigeminal Neuralgia. The trigeminal nerves (we all have two of them) are the control center for the jaw and brain, and when the trigeminal nerves are overworked, migraines may occur. If you are misdiagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia, your symptoms will not improve. Or, if you are treated for only the pain from your headaches, the TMJ problem will not be addressed.

The best TMJ dentists will use neuromuscular dentistry skills to discern trigeminal neuralgia from TMJ disorder. The former feels more like electric shocks, whereas painful, tight, aching jaw.

Common Symptoms

TMJ and TMD are acronyms that describe the same condition: a misaligned jaw in which the joints do not function properly. You will often hear or read the word “malocclusion”. Malocclusion simply means misaligned jaw.

Many TMJ patients initially sought treatment from a medical doctor for their symptoms. Disorders involving the temporomandibular joint often look like other maladies, which is why this is often misdiagnosed. When patients finally get an accurate temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) diagnosis, they can begin treatment and look forward to a more normal life. A misaligned bite can lead to discomfort, severe pain, and many other symptoms, including:

  • Tightness in the jaw
  • Limited jaw movement
  • Clicking or popping sounds in the jaw
  • Locked jaw
  • Limited mouth opening
  • Jaw clenching and/or grinding, often at night while you sleep
  • Facial, neck, and jaw pain
  • Inflammation around the joints
  • Migraine-like headaches
  • Tension headaches
  • Tooth problems including worn down, cracked, missing, or sensitive teeth
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Ear fullness
  • Numbness/tingling in the fingers and fingertips
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness (many people are surprised to find out the answer to their question, “Does TMJ cause vertigo?” is a resounding “Yes!”)
  • Depression

TMJ and Sleep Apnea

TMD is also closely linked to sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is an extraordinarily common condition that affects millions of Americans. Sleep apnea occurs when your airway collapses while you sleep. Your collapsed airway blocks your air passage and forces you to stop breathing, sometimes hundreds of times during the night.

If you’ve been told you snore often and loudly, you will likely suffer from sleep apnea. The constant opening and closing of the airway force the jaw joints (the TMJs) to work overtime—much harder than they should. The overworking of the jaw joints causes the above TMJ symptoms. Some people have several symptoms, while others may only have one or two. TMD will present differently for every patient.

Because many of the symptoms resemble other conditions, your best option is to find a TMJ dentist, because neuromuscular dentists have specialized training in both the diagnosis and treatment of TMJ/TMD.

Treatment for TMJ

Using advanced technology to scan and track the jaw’s movements, a seasoned TMJ dentist will be able to evaluate your jaw movement and the function of surrounding muscles and joints. While each patient requires a different treatment plan, many benefit from the following TMJ treatments:

  • TENS Unit (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) applied to the affected areas
  • Dental restorations, including inlays/onlays, dental bridges, crowns, dental implants, dentures, or full mouth reconstruction
  • Mouth guard (also known as a bite splint or oral appliance)

After meeting with a TMJ dentist in Wilmington, you’ll begin treatment right away to help restore your jaw to a functional, healthy position that will allow you to eat, talk, and sleep more comfortably.

Get TMJ Treatment

There’s no need to suffer from painful TMD symptoms any longer. Please contact neuromuscular dentist, Dr. Goodling, by calling (302) 994-0979 or filling out an appointment request online. After a thorough evaluation, you’ll know whether your condition is TMJ or something else, and treatment in a trusted neuromuscular dentist’s office can begin right away.