As a dentist who incorporates TMJ or neuromuscular therapy in patient care, I treat a lot of patients with TMD (TMJ). TMD (TMJ) includes pain in the muscles and/or joint and/or incorrect function (dysfunction) of the TMJ (jaw joint). Diagnosing and treating pain in the head and neck area can be simple or complicated. When a patient experiences "TMJ" pain and/or dysfunction I may or may not be able to help them. If the pain is caused entirely or partly to an unbalanced bite (occluso-muscle disorder), I will be able to help them completely or partially.
My initial approach to TMJ pain relief is simple and inexpensive. By using initial noninvasive therapies, I can quickly determine if I can help a patient long term. Final or long-term therapy may involve simply wearing a guard or splint at night or bite adjustment therapies which may include fillings, crowns, porcelain veneers and orthodontics or Invisalign. Before getting into these types of final procedures, I make my patient comfortable as inexpensively as possible. If I can do this, then we can talk about long-term therapy.
I will first perform a jaw joint and muscle exam. In a typical case, I will make a temporary splint called a deprogrammer that will relax the facial muscles and put the jaw in a stress-free position. The deprogrammer should be worn 24/7 until the symptoms are gone. If symptoms do not improve, we will place the patient on anti-inflammatory medication and muscle relaxants. If the symptoms persist, I may redesign the deprogrammer. If symptoms continue, we will take a cone beam image CT scan on the upper and lower jaw to check for infections in the bone or other bone pathologies ("cavitations"). If the CT scan is normal, the patient will be referred to a physical therapist, chiropractor, ENT or neurologist.
The bottom line is that no permanent and more expensive therapy should be completed if I cannot get the patient comfortable with initial inexpensive and noninvasive TMJ therapy.