My Philosophy on TMJ / TMD
By Dr. Alex George
We all have TMJ. That term means TemporoMandibular Joint. When people say they have “TMJ”, they really mean they have ”TMD”, which is TemporoMandibular Joint Dysfunction.
The TMJ is the joint in front of your ear. It is here the bone of the lower jaw (condyle of the mandible) fits into the skull (fossa). It is held in place by ligaments and muscles. A disc is present between the two bones.
Think of the jaw as a porch swing. If the porch swing has equal support and equal chain links on each side, it will swing nicely and it’s a smooth ride. If one side of the swing has five less links in the chain, the weight will not be distributed evenly. In turn the swing will not work as well and would not be comfortable to sit on. The support area where the swing is anchored would detach and become loose and break away. Now, if the jaw is out of alignment, the muscles on each side will work differently. The bone and disc between the upper skull and lower jaw would wear differently on each side. This would cause a dysfunction of the joint-TMD.
Some of the Common Symptoms of TMD Are:
- Sore muscles of the head and neck
- Sore jaw and muscles of the face
- Ringing in the ears or fullness in the ears
- Unable to chew certain foods
- Unable to open wide
- Noise in the joint, clicking/popping/grating
- Pain in the joint
- Not sleeping well at night
Our Treatment Approach
I approach TMD by finding balance. Balance with the bite (teeth) which balances the muscles that hold the lower jaw (mandible) and balance with the bone (condyle) in the joint. In order to accomplish this, I use the technology of Myotronics K-7 to measure the muscle activity and track the jaw movement along with the ULF Tens unit to relax the muscle. Once this information is gathered, I make a custom orthotic which is worn by the patient.
Once the orthotic is worn as directed, the symptoms will subside. There are a series of appointments to adjust the orthotic as the muscles start to relax and find a comfortable position.
After the patient becomes symptom-free and remains symptom-free for a couple of months, we discuss the options to maintaining this jaw position with a permanent solution.