Neuromuscular dentistry has changed the world of cosmetic dentistry. What used to be a short-term fix for dental problems has become a superior form of dental care which provides long-term dental solutions. A neuromuscular dentist can protect you and your child’s teeth from future damage by preventing a misaligned bite from developing. If you already suffer from TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder), this correction can dramatically reduce your pain.
While there are many cosmetic dentists in Phoenix, Arizona, our dentists are among the few who are LVI-trained. LVI, or The Las Vegas Institute, offers advanced dental training at their facility using state-of-the-art technology. Dr. LeSueur is a fellow and Drs. Dodaro and LeSueur have both attended the prestigious institute receiving training in all areas of dentistry, including neuromuscular. Their goal is to relieve your chronic, often debilitating, pain with TMD / TMJ treatment.
What Is Neuromuscular Dentistry?
Neuromuscular dentistry is an approach to correct misalignment of the jaw. By ensuring that your teeth and jaws are in proper alignment, this prevents future tooth damage such as chips and fractures. Our dentists, who are trained in both cosmetic dentistry and neuromuscular dentistry, will apply both forms to your TMJ treatment procedure. That will give you longer-lasting results and a smile that is both healthy and attractive.
At our practice, we use BioPak and T-Scan (Tek Scan) state-of-the-art digital technology that allows our doctors to properly track your bite and determine any issues in a quick and efficient manner. The Tek Scan and BioPak technologies allow our doctors to evaluate TMJ problems, bite issues, and the reasoning for your head or neck pain. From here, our doctors are able to develop a treatment plan for bite issues and pain management to complete major restorative care. The T-Scan bite paper can track which tooth hits first and hardest when you bite down, which wouldn’t be available to our doctors otherwise. These technologies are designed to create harmony between the joints, muscles and bite to eliminate pain and allow major reconstructive work to be done.
What Is TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction)?
Your temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to your skull. It is one of the most complex joints in your body and is responsible for a variety of important functions such as talking, chewing, or yawning. When this joint falls out of alignment, it can lead to a condition called temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, also called TMD, is a neuromuscular disorder of the jaw, which can cause chronic pain, damage to your teeth, and symptoms throughout your body that do not appear to be dental in origin.
People with TMD often suffer years of chronic pain, seeing doctors, taking a series of medications, and undergoing unsuccessful treatments, because doctors don’t connect the symptoms to the dental cause.
TMD symptoms can be elusive and include:
Headaches, often diagnosed as migraines, are one of the most common, misinterpret symptoms of TMJ/TMD. Whether you are aware of the tension in your jaw or not, it creates tension in the muscles in your face and neck which can cause tension headaches and vascular headaches.
Numbness and tingling in the neck and arms
This muscle tension can put pressure on a bundle of nerves located between your neck and shoulder. This is called the brachial plexus, and results in the controlling of your arm and hand. Pressure on this nerve bundle can cause numbness and tingling in your arm, hand, and fingers.
Clicking and popping jaw
When your bite is misaligned, your jaw joints can start rubbing together in ways that they shouldn’t. A disc of cartilage normally provides cushion, but when it gets pushed out of the way the joint rubs together, clicking and popping.
The tension in your jaw can cause you to clench and grind your teeth unconsciously. This creates more tension and exacerbates the problem, often causing headaches. It can also damage your teeth.
Neck and back pain
The muscles in your jaw work with the muscles in your neck which work with the muscles in your back. Tension radiates from one to the other. Added to this, the muscle tension eventually causes bad posture, and can cause your neck and back to be out of alignment.
Ears are very complex with tiny delicate parts. The jaw joint and muscles are right there with the inner workings of your ears. Misalignment and tension in your jaw can affect your ears causing ringing, stuffiness, ear pain, and even infections.
Limited jaw movement and locking jaw
Your bite can be so far out of alignment that your jaw joint catches on itself and gets stuck.
Chipped or loose teeth
Grinding and clenching, even constantly chewing with the wrong angle of pressure, can damage your teeth over time, causing chips and broken or loose teeth. It can also cause restorations to fail.
TMJ Patient Testimonials
“Great experience so far with treatment of my TMJ I recently found I have. Very knowledgable, supportive and flexible with adjustments and tensing. I feel a ton less pain in jaw and Dr Lesuer is very kind to stay later to explain and provide adjustment. Noticble difference from beginning treaments. Feeling relief!” – Kara Lang 9/2017
“I’ve been struggling with migraines for years but the last year it been a lot worse. I’ve had my my mouth guard for 7 days now and I’ve been migraine free. I have TMJ and this has been such a great experience. The office is warm and inviting family oriented. The office clean and the staff is wonderful I will never go anywhere else!!!!!” – Erica Canez 9/2016
What Causes TMD?
Some people develop TMD without ever knowing the cause. Common triggers include:
- Trauma, such as whiplash or sports injuries
- Bad oral habits, such as chewing ice, pencils or nail biting
- Certain health conditions including fibromyalgia, and arthritis
- Stressors that cause a clenched jaw, straining your facial muscles
- Poor posture
- Medical procedures, such as intubation during surgery
- Ill fitting dental restorations and bad dental work
TMJ And Ear Pain
Neuromuscular dentistry has the ability to prevent chronic ear infections in children due to TMD. While many cosmetic dentists refuse or prefer not to treat children, our Mesa neuromuscular dentists recommend that you bring your children in to see them when they are 12-18 months old, so they can ensure that they get the best dental care right from the start. Feel comfortable and confident having your loved ones treated with the best in the field.
What Causes Chronic Migraines?
Migraines are believed to be the result of blood-vessel contractions and/or brain abnormalities, although their exact cause remains unknown. A TMD/TMJ testing session can help pinpoint the source of your discomfort and serve as the basis for a custom treatment plan to ease your pain. While the root source of migraines is not known, these sometimes-debilitating headaches can be triggered by a number of factors including:
- Emotional stress
- Physical fatigue
- Light sensitivity
- Reactions to taste or smell
- Weather changes
- Changes in sleeping habits
One of the most common symptoms of TMJ is chronic headaches. Original tension on muscles and misaligned joints have a direct impact on trigeminal nerve resulting in the chronic headaches. This same pressure can cause generalized facial pain in addition to:
- Ocular (eye) pressure
- Ear ringing and pain
- Nasal pressure and pain
- Neck pain
- Severe backache
TMD/TMJ Treatment In Mesa, AZ
The wonderful thing about TMJ / TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder) testing is that not only can it lead to proper diagnoses and treatment of the debilitating condition, the testing process itself can provide immediate relief from pain. Only a neuromuscular dentist, such as Dr. LeSueur, has the knowledge and the equipment to perform accurate testing. TMJ treatment involves two phases. The first phase of treatment seeks to alleviate the painful symptoms associated with your condition and stabilize your jaw position temporarily. This can be accomplished in several ways:
- We start out with the TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Neural Stimulation) machine. This acts like an electrical massage, relaxing your jaw muscles and relieving the pain. The treatment lasts about 45 to 60 minutes. TENS also increases blood flow, flushes out toxins, and stimulates the production of endorphins – your body’s natural pain killers.
- Electromyography measures the electrical activity in your jaw muscles when moving and at rest. This tells us how tense those muscles really are and helps us know when we’ve found the correct position for your jaw. We also evaluate your jaw-to-skull relationship. Next we use the K-7 unit to track and record the position and movement of your jaw when:
- At rest
- Muscle function and jaw-to-skull relationship
- The second phase of your TMJ treatment will seek to permanently return your jaw to its ideal resting position and restore proper alignment to your bite. Depending on the nature of your problem. Dr. LeSueur, Dr. Glenn LeSueur, and Dr. Dodaro may be able to instruct you on exercises and lifestyle changes that will relieve TMD. If the problem is a more substantial misalignment, you may need to wear a temporary appliance to gradually change the position of your jaw and correct your bite. Various types of occlusal splint therapy (orthotics) can be used.
What Are My Treatment Options For TMJ At Drs Of Smiles?
A variety of approaches are used to treat TMJ. These can run from relaxation exercises at home to anti-inflammatory medications, from traditional dental work to creating a splint for nighttime use. Sometimes, it’s a process of trial and error for Dr. LeSueur and our team as TMJ can be difficult to pinpoint causation. In these cases, we will try a certain approach and if it doesn’t have the desired effect, we’ll move to the next option.
These are some of the methods we use to help our patients overcome TMJ:
- Cosmetic dentistry — To correct alignment, we can replace missing teeth with dental implants or bridges, crown overly worn teeth, or move the teeth with orthodontics. This can involve widening constricted arches.
- Splints or night guards — Night grinding and clenching is often a main factor in TMJ. To combat this, it’s important to put the jaw in the correct position at night. To do this, we fabricate plastic mouthpieces that fit over the upper and lower teeth. These are usually only worn at night.
- Exercises — Tightening the jaw muscles and clenching the teeth is a common cause of TMJ problems. We have various jaw exercises that stimulate and relax the jaw muscles.
- Medication — Muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory medication can be effective.
- Lifestyle changes — Stress and anxiety are often root causes; stress reduction techniques are important.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) — Small electrical pulses are delivered to the jaw muscles through a small wand. These pulses stimulate the nerves, encouraging the muscles to relax and the jaw to fall into alignment.
- Botox injections — While Botox is known for its ability to erase wrinkles on the upper third of the face, it can also be used for TMJ patients. It is very effective for relaxing the overused muscles that lead to TMJ pain.
Should I be sleeping in a different position if I suffer from TMJ?
Should I be sleeping in a different position if I suffer from TMJ?
Nighttime can be a bad time for patients who suffer from temporomandibular joint disorder. That’s when patients clench their jaw and grind their teeth, creating the stresses that lead to TMJ.
There is something else you probably have not considered. Is my sleeping position exacerbating my TMJ? It can be. Let’s look at this.
- Stomach sleepers — Easily the worst position for easing TMJ pain. It’s not great for your back and neck either! When you sleep on your stomach, your spine is out of alignment, and when you push your face down onto your pillow or the mattress, this only adds pressure to your jaw joint.
- Side sleepers — Depending on the pillow you’re using, sleeping on your side can put your head and neck out of alignment. This will show itself in pain the next day in your neck and jaw.
- Back sleepers — If you suffer from TMJ, sleeping on your back is the best option. Your neck and back stay aligned. There isn’t any pressure on your jaw. It is difficult for many people to sleep on their back — at least at first — but you can train yourself to do so. The only drawback of this position is for your partner, as it can lead to increased snoring.
Can TMJ go away on its own?
Whether or not TMJ can resolve on its own varies dramatically between people. For some, they may be in the midst of an incredibly stressful time in their life. When these stressors resolve, the patient may stop grinding his or her teeth and the TMJ may go away.
But if the jaw is out of alignment, the condition needs treatment. Correction may be as simple as creating a custom night guard to wear while sleeping to stop teeth grinding and clenching, or treatment may be much more involved. Every case is unique. In extreme cases, surgery could be necessary.
How Long Will TMD Treatment Take?
You will experience relief from symptoms as early as the testing phase. The length of time necessary to achieve full correction will depend on the nature and severity of the problem. Our neuromuscular dentists will conduct testing to make sure that your jaw is in optimal alignment. They may reshape your teeth or use crowns to keep your teeth meeting up perfectly and make the results permanent.
“I had orthodontic treatment to correct my bite when I was a teenager, how can I have TMD now?”
An orthodontist or dentist lacking training in neuromuscular dentistry, and performing TMD treatments may actually create the reoccurring problem. Even if the treatment brought your jaw into proper alignment at the time, other events, later in life may have triggered TMD. Many people do not experience TMD symptoms until after an event, such as a car accident, which does not involve direct dental trauma.
What Happens If I Don’t Treat My TMJ?
Chronic pain is the main component of TMJ — pain in your jaws, mouth, teeth, ears, neck, shoulders, and head. Chronic pain leads to depression, alcoholism, addiction to pain medication, and a diminished daily existence. Many TMJ sufferers grind their teeth while they sleep, a condition known as bruxism. Left unattended, this leads to cracked and damaged teeth, and usually is accompanied by insomnia. Ear problems such as tinnitus are another result of TMJ, as can be inner ear problems leading to problems with vertigo. The continued pressure on your misaligned jaw can lead to permanent jaw damage, including possible jaw locking or jaw dislocation due to damaged cartilage.
Are There Exercises I Can Do To Help Prevent TMJ From Recurring?
A misaligned bite can lead to TMJ and there’s little you can do about it other than having Dr. LeSueur bring things into alignment. But for other causes, or to prevent a relapse, we give patients these exercises to do at home:
- Relaxed jaw exercise — Place you tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth. Consciously let your lower jaw relax downward, slightly separating your teeth.
- Goldfish exercises — Place an index finger in front of your ear where your TMJ is located. Put another finger on your chin. Open your jaw either halfway or all the way and feel the slight resistance.
- Chin tuck — Lightly link your hands behind your bottom to push your shoulders forward. Now pull your chin straight back as if you’re trying to create a double chin.
- Jaw resistance — Put your thumb under your chin and create some resistance as you open your mouth. Pinch your chin with forefingers and thumb of both hands to hold it when your mouth is open. Then close your mouth feeling the resistance.
- Tongue up — Hold your tongue up against the roof of your mouth, and then slowly open and close your mouth.
- Side-to-side and forward jaw movement — Place an object that’s about ¼ inch between your front teeth. First move your jaw slowly from side to side with the object between your teeth. Then do the same thing, but this time move your bottom jaw forward so your bottom teeth are in front of your top teeth.
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Schedule A Consultation
During your TMJ consultation, we will listen carefully to your symptoms, fully assess your jaw and facial muscles, and help you determine the most effective way to restore comfort and health to your body. Fortunately, there are a number of TMD/TMJ treatment options available. For more information on TMD/TMJ contact Drs of Smiles today at 480.834.6991!
Dr. Scott LeSueur, Dr. Glenn LeSueur, and Dr. Charles Dodaro are Mesa dentists, serving Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Gilbert, Chandler, and other East Valley Cities in Arizona, combine LVI training and state-of-the-art technology to bring you, and your entire family, the very best and healthiest cosmetic and neuromuscular dental care.