Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) occurs as a result of problems with the jaw, jaw joint and surrounding facial muscles that control jaw movement and chewing. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint that connects the lower jaw to the temporal bone of the skull, located in front of the ear on each side of your head. These joints are flexible and allow the jaw to move smoothly up and down and side to side enabling you to talk, chew and yawn. However, when there are problems with these joints or if there is injury to the jaw, the joint itself or the muscles of the head and neck, TMD is the result.
Neuromuscular dentistry is the dental specialization that focuses on placing the jaw in its optimal position. Neuromuscular dentistry works with the hard and soft tissues, muscles and nerves of the jaw and surrounding area. Neuromuscular dentists can realign your bite and resolve your TMD symptoms.
One of the most painful and debilitating symptoms of TMD is migraine headache. Many doctors and dentists do not have the training necessary to diagnose and treat TMJ disorders. Neuromuscular dentistry is the branch of dentistry that helps people correct the jaw problems that have caused them pain for years, possibly even decades.
TMD causes migraines because the trigeminal nerve is one of the most powerful and complex nerves in the human body. This nerve is completely responsible for the temporomandibular joint and tooth functions and accounts for over 40% of the brain’s processing. The trigeminal nerve has three branches, all affecting various parts of the face, head, shoulders and arms. The pain and muscle tightness associated with TMD can even affect your hands and fingers.
Pain related to TMD may be sharp and searing or dull and constant. Pain is typically over the joint immediately in front of the ear but can radiate elsewhere and cause spasms in the muscles attached to the bones of the skull, face and jaws. Some of the most notable symptoms of TMD are:
· Stiff jaw muscles
· Ear problems, including ringing (tinnitus) and pressure
· Neck, shoulder, and back pain
· Locking, clicking, and popping of the jaw
· Limited jaw movement
· Tingling or numbness in the fingers
· Difficulty swallowing
· Facial pain
Often times, patients see doctors for severe headache and are given medications to treat the pain of the headache; however, there is often no treatment provided for what is actually causing the headaches. Neuromuscular dentistry is the specialized area of dentistry that treats the cause, not just the symptoms, of the painful headaches (and other symptoms) associated with a misaligned jaw.
If you would like to learn more about how neuromuscular dentists diagnose and treat TMD, please visit the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies website to find a highly trained TMD dentist in your area.