Boston TMJ Dentist
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction encompasses a broad range of problems and symptoms. Many names are used by different doctors and patients. The term TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint. TMJ dysfunction, also called TMD, is a disease process. TMD is a painful cycle that occurs when the teeth, chewing muscles, and jaw joints are failing to work harmoniously together. It can begin by clenching or grinding the teeth, a misaligned bite, trauma to the joint itself, arthritis, or emotional stress. The most common cause of TMJ pain is myofascial pain dysfunction, which involves the muscles for chewing.
What is a TMJ Dentist?
Actually, there is no official specialty designation within dentistry for TMJ, so it is not accurate to call someone a TMJ dentist. Dentists who treat TMJ dysfunction are generally licensed as general dentists.
So why do patients drive hundreds of miles from surrounding states to seek TMJ treatment from Dr. Bader?
Dr. Bader has undergone extensive TMJ training at the Las Vegas Institute (LVI), a prestigious post-graduate center that is nationally recognized as one of the leading establishments for teaching the diagnosing and treating of neuromuscular disorders. He has achieved LVI Fellowship status, which means he has completed over 278 hours of continuing dental education in neuromuscular science and has successfully completed a comprehensive examination. Dr. Bader has been successfully treating TMJ for over a decade. To learn more about his credentials, please visit his biography page.
The TMJ Joint Explained
The temporomandibular joint, found in front of your ears on both sides, connects your lower jaw (mandible) to your skull (temporal bone) via a set of muscles and ligaments. There is a firm disc between the mandible and the temporal bone that is biconcave, meaning it is concave on each side. This is called the articular disc. In normal function it rides between the two bones as your mandible moves, cushioning and protecting the bones. The TMJ is the only joint in the body that requires perfectly simultaneous coordination between both joints on both sides to work properly. There is a series of large and small muscles that function primarily to open, close, and make fine adjustments to the mandibular movement. The masseter (at the side of your jaw) and anterior temporalis (at your temples) are the outside closing muscles. Inside your mouth are the medial and lateral pterygoids, which close and adjust fine mandible movements. There are small muscles called the digastricus under your tongue which open the lower jaw.
It is important to know that all the other muscles of your head, neck, and even shoulders and upper back participate in more extreme movements of your mandible like wide opening or clenching. Because of this, your lower jaw position plays a major role in head and neck posture, even affecting the shoulders and upper and lower back.
Reasons to See a TMJ Dentist
The most common symptoms of TMJ dysfunction include:
- Facial pain
- Jaw joint pain
- Back, neck, or cervical pain
- Postural problems (forward head posture)
- Pain in the face
- Limited opening of the mouth
- Pain in the muscles surrounding the temporomandibular joints
- Pain in the occipital (back), temporal (side), frontal (front), or sub-orbital (below the eyes)
- Pain behind the eyes – dagger and ice pick feelings
- Multiple bites that feel uncomfortable or “off” and continually changing
- Teeth sensitivity to cold
- Deviation of the jaw to one side
- The jaw locking open or closed
- Ringing in the ears, ear pain, and ear congestion feelings
- Sinus-like symptoms
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Visual disturbances
- Tingling in fingers and hands
- Insomnia – difficulty sleeping
Dr. Bader starts with a comprehensive examination and review of your symptoms to diagnose TMJ disease. The examination takes about an hour and includes a tooth-by-tooth exam and measurements of each tooth, tooth position, alignment, proportion of tooth height, and gum position. Then your TMJ is examined for sounds and tenderness, as well as range of motion. Your occlusion, or bite, is evaluated for alignment with your jaw, as well as balance on closing. A complete examination of the muscles of your face, head, neck, and shoulders is the final information collected.
Based on this evaluation, Dr. Bader can advise you as to whether your problems may be helped by neuromuscular occlusal therapy. If you are a good candidate, the next phase of diagnosis consists of models, photographs, and electronic measurements of your jaw movement, TMJ, muscle tension and activity, and occlusion using the K7 Jaw Tracking computer.
Usually the most effective treatment involves coordination with other specialists including ENT (ear, nose, and throat), chiropractic, physical therapy, massage therapy practitioners. We will review treatment options after a description of the anatomy and pathology of this very complex area.
To learn more about the TMJ dentist therapies we offer, click on the following link that explains Phase 1 and Phase 2 Therapy.