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Overcoming Jaw Pain
If you suffer from pain in your jaw, face, neck and/or shoulders, the answer might lie in your jaw alignment. Even recurring migraines, numbness in the hands and fingers, or tinnitus—ringing in the ears—can be related to a misalignment of the jawbone.
What is TMD?
TMD stands for <a href=http://softouchdentalcare.com/tmd-diagnosis.htm>Temporomandibular Joint Disorder.</a> It’s also often abbreviated as TMJ. It refers to a problem in the alignment of the mandible, or lower jawbone. The temporomandibular joint is the joint where the mandible joins the temple. If this juncture is not optimally positioned, it can adversely affect your bite, causing a variety of symptoms which sometimes seem unrelated to the jaw.
TMD can be very difficult to diagnose, largely due to the wide variety of symptoms it can cause. Among these are:
- Jaw pain<br>
- Facial pain<br>
- Clicking in the jaw<br>
- Freezing of the jaw<br>
- Recurring migraines<br>
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) <br>
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Numbness in the hands and fingers<br>
- Teeth grinding<br>
- Ear pain
As you can see, many of these symptoms would seem to be caused by something other than a misalignment of the jaw. If you suffer from any of these symptoms, and have not been able to find an underlying cause, a visit to a neuromuscular dentist might be in order. It’s estimated that as many as ten million Americans suffer from TMD. Many remain undiagnosed.
Since many of these symptoms can also indicate issues other than TMD, it’s important to get a reliable diagnosis. A <a href=http://softouchdentalcare.com/neuro.htm>neuromuscular dentist </a>can determine if your symptoms are a result of TMD, or if another issue might be causing them.
How can neuromuscular dentistry help?
Only a small number of dentists are trained in neuromuscular dentistry, a field which includes the diagnosis and treatment of TMD. While general dentistry focuses on the health and well-being of the teeth, neuromuscular dentistry focuses on the relationship between nerves, muscles and bones in the mouth and jaw. A neuromuscular dentist can determine the optimal positioning of the jawbone in relationship to the temple, and correct your alignment and bite such that this optimal positioning is achieved and maintained.
A neuromuscular dentist will begin by determining the best position for your jaw. Since the position of the jaw also affects your bite, some changes might need to be made in the way your teeth fit against each other. Malocclusion, or a bad bite, is often a symptom of TMD. You might require crowns to raise your bite, or even Invisalign® clear braces.
Another goal of neuromuscular dentistry is to train the muscles of the jaw to hold the bone in the correct position. After numerous tests to determine the optimum position of your jaw, various techniques are used to retrain the jaw muscles. These can include use of appliances, physical therapy, and Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), which uses small electrodes to relax the muscles into the proper position and provide pain relief.
<a href=http://softouchdentalcare.com/tmd-treatment.html>Treatment for TMD </a>is highly individualized. Only a neuromuscular dentist will be able to determine what approach will work best for you and your particular symptoms.
What causes TMD?
The causes of TMD are varied and uncertain. Many things can cause the jaw to shift and move out of alignment, including trauma, long-term natural wear and tear, tooth grinding, or even genetic factors.
Whatever the cause, the result is the same—long-term discomfort or chronic pain. If you think you might suffer from TMD, a consultation with a neuromuscular dentist might be the first step toward relieving your pain for good.
About the Author
At Softouch Dental Care in Northern Virginia, Dr. Michael Chung, DDS, specializes in neuromuscular dentistry. With extensive training in this important area of dentistry, he can diagnose TMD and devise a long-term plan to correct your jaw alignment and give you relief from pain and discomfort.