The area of TMJ (jaw joint) treatment is so little understood that maybe it would be good to explain why there are certain doctors out there who practice in this field. First of all, it would be helpful to understand what TMJ treatment is all about. Here are some of the symptoms that would prompt someone to seek help in this field. If you have chronic headaches, it is very possible, and often likely, that the discs of cartilage that cover the jaw bones are displaced, i.e. “slipped” like a disc in your back can be slipped. As you already likely know, a slipped disc in the lower back can hurt terribly. Well, a slipped disc in your jaw joint can do the same thing.
When the disc in the joint is out of place, this can prevent you from being able to open your mouth all the way. This is a very clear indicator that you might want to talk to someone who has an understanding of this problem. If your jaw joints pop, click, or crunch when you open and close, this is another clear sign that there might be a problem. This is something that should be looked at as well.
A small subset of TMJ disorders is when the discs are tipped “inward” from the jawbone and this can cause a patient to have tremors, tics, spasms, etc. Sometimes this is directly correlated to something called Tourette’s Syndrome – oftentimes something as simple as a specialized dental appliance will take the pressure off the joints and calm down a patient who has these “tics” as they are called. This is also the same concept with Parkinson’s – uncontrollable shaking is sometimes due to those slipped discs pinching the nerves around the joint.
Did you know that a TMJ doctor can help you reduce concussions and help with sports performance? It’s true. A well-constructed and well-fitted device will protect and support the jaw joints so that if you took a hit to the head, the risk of a concussion is greatly reduced. There are a number of mixed martial artists using this new technique very effectively already. They are much more able to handle a direct hit and the device gives them better neurological stability which means better strength all around. It’s a great device that can protect athletes and help them perform better, too.
The TMJ doctor can also help with sleep disorders, as well. The way this works is that a TMJ appliance will help the muscles of the head and neck to relax and this effectively helps the airway to open more. X-rays of the airway clearly show how before treatment the airway is nearly blocked, and how a year later the airway opens tremendously, which means better nighttime breathing.
Fixing TMJ problems is not a cure all for everything, but it is most certainly something that should be looked at when the head/neck/shoulders are involved.