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TMJ/TMD Q&A Commonly Asked Questions and Answers About the Complicated Disorder of TMJ/TMD

By Larry Pribyl, DDS

What Exactly is “TMJ”?
The acronym “TMJ” describes a part of the body, the temporomandibular joint. Those who suffer from a jaw disorder have TMD, temporomandibular joint dysfunction. The most ordinary definition of TMD is a disorder of the temporomandibular joint(s) that causes pain, usually in front of the ear(s), sometimes in the form of a headache.

What Symptoms are Associated with TMD?
Many times individuals are not aware of a TM disorder because their symptoms may not indicate a jaw joint problem to them. Sometimes a TM disorder can be masked as an ear infection, sinus/allergy issues, weather changes, medications, teeth pain, fibromyalgia, “normal every day headaches that everyone gets,” etc. Symptoms very often related to TMD include jaw pain, jaw locking, jaw joint noises, facial pain, limited mouth opening, ear pain, ringing in the ears, ear congestion, dizziness, visual disturbances, headaches, migraines, throat pain, pain when chewing, muscle twitching, neck and shoulder pain and eye pain.

Can a TMJ Disorder Cause Headaches?
Many people who suffer from headaches do not know the cause of them. In most TMD cases, patients have headaches and overall head pain due to jaw joint compression. There is a tremendous amount of unhealthy pressure being applied to blood vessels and nerves throughout the head, not allowing them enough oxygen. This can cause very intense and sometimes debilitating headaches.

Is There a Cure for TMD?
In our practice, we have confidence in a non-surgical intervention to manage your TMD situation. We have seen great success. Someone diagnosed with TMD will have a more vulnerable jaw position throughout their life than the next person. With that in mind, there is no basic cure for the disorder, but a way to manage the disorder comfortably with orthotic wear (oral devices).

How Does a Dentist Help with a Disorder Such as TMD?
Dr. Larry Pribyl has achieved his Masters of Excellence in the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain (AACP). He closely evaluates how your symptoms present in your initial evaluation as well as obtaining vital measurements and then more diagnostics may be in order. Our leading course of treatment is to fabricate oral orthotic devices, mouth pieces, to initiate healing within the TM joints and decompress the jaw joint space.

With TMD, it is common that the most damaging position for your jaw is when your teeth are closed together. Therefore, the insertion of orthotics helps provide the space needed in your TM joint and prevents your teeth from coming together.

What Can I Do To Help My TMD?
If you experience any symptoms mentioned, consider an evaluation. In the meantime, a soft diet is highly recommended. Take smaller bites and chew slowly. If facial pain occurs, administer cold/hot/cold compresses over the affected area(s). Throughout your day, keep your jaw as relaxed as possible, try to implement a simple position of “lips together, teeth apart.” This helps to inactivate your already hyperactive facial muscles. If applicable, take an anti-inflammatory. More than likely there is an abundance of inflammation inside of your TM joints.

For an initial evaluation of your TMD, please call our office at 816-795-1000 and read more at www.tmjsleepapnea.com.

Larry Pribyl, DDS, has been in private practice over thirty five years. He has his Master of Excellence: American Academy of Craniofacial Pain, he is a Diplomate: American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine, and a Diplomate: Academy of Clinical Sleep Disorders Disciplines. He specializes in treating head, neck, and facial pain as well as dental sleep medicine. His training comes from experts in these fields where he has acquired hundreds of continuing education hours in post graduate studies.

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