This month of November, 2020, marks a time when it’s important to be aware of TMJ disorders and what you need to look for in your journey to find relief. Many of the symptoms of TMD are very difficult to really identify as to what might be causing them. For example, many of our patients come to our office with migraines and they have had these migraines for many years. Did you know that a displaced disc in the jaw joint is quite often the cause for this pain? Yes, that’s right! In almost all cases of migraines the discs in the jaw joints are out of place. How do you figure this out? Well, an MRI of course! It’s kind of like if you went to your orthopedist and said “Hey Doc, my knee/shoulder/elbow/neck hurts all the time” Most doctors would immediately order an MRI to figure out what is going on. In my little world of TMJ disorders, that is always the go-to prescription to diagnose the problem, and in 99% of the cases that I see, the discs are out of place. Talk about a slam dunk on the diagnosis! From there you need to figure out a plan to fix the problem.
Another issue that I think is really important in spotting a TMD problem is that you absolutely MUST look at the cranial bones to see if there is distortion. You also MUST look at the cervical spine to see if the spinous processes are out of place. None of this is really difficult to do, it just takes the experience of the practitioner to understand how this is done. Let me explain. If you look at a person when they are sitting up nice and straight and their eyes and ears are clearly not level, then this means the bones inside the skull- the cranial bones- are not level. This is exactly why I see so many orthodontic failures – the teeth are being forced into a straight alignment when the bones of the skull are terribly out of place. It’s just like putting two new tires on the care when the front end alignment is way out of place – it just makes no sense. A car cannot complain of pain- it just wears out sooner when the alignment is incorrect. However, a human can indeed complain of pain when their teeth are forced to fight against a skull that is out of alignment. Make sense? I hope so. This is why most of the orthodontic cases that I see have to start over again. The bones of the skull need alignment first, and later on you can do braces or aligners to make the teeth look good.
So how do you go about finding someone who understands TMD? DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Take the time to call different offices in your area and ask if they treat TMD cases. Ask if they do an MRI to diagnose. Ask if they palpate the muscles. Ask if they examine the cranial bones for balance and symmetry. This is a great way to figure out if the doctor is really trained in this field and can help you get better.
This is a journey to improve your health, your well being, and your quality of life. Good luck and good roads ahead!