Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, called TMJ or sometimes TMD for short, can present through a myriad of symptoms. TMJ disorder requires care from a doctor with deep understanding of your jaw joints. This is why many general practice physicians do not identify TMJ problems earlier and treat symptoms rather than the root cause of the problem. St. Louis neuromuscular dentist Dr. Chris Hill is a TMJ expert who focuses on identifying the root cause of the problem and relieving pain without drugs and without surgery.
If you suspect you have TMJ or if you have TMJ symptoms that aren’t resolving under your doctor’s care, please call (314) 375-5353 (Downtown St. Louis) or (314) 678-7876 (Clayton) today for an appointment with Dr. Hill at our office in downtown or Clayton.
One of the reasons why TMJ can be so hard to identify is that it has so many different symptoms. TMJ symptoms often include:
- Severely worn teeth
- Head and neck muscle tension
- Sore jaws
- Shoulder tightness
- Tingling in the fingers
- Teeth that are cold sensitive
- Pain behind the eyes
- Ringing in the ears, ear pain, or vertigo
While these health issues are not always related to your jaw joints and bite balance (the way the teeth come together), it is one common root cause of head, neck and shoulder pain that should be examined through the diagnostic process.
If your bite is not balanced or your jaw joints are unstable, the body attempts self correction. When this happens, you may experience muscle fatigue, clenching, grinding or other symptoms of TMJ that radiate through your head (ears included), neck and shoulders.
Once Dr. Hill and our team of dental care experts understand the underlying cause of your pain and determine where the joint and the jaw should to be, we create custom, therapy-based treatments for you that relieve pain in a short period of time, and correct the issue permanently.
With so many different symptoms, it’s hard to get a definitive diagnosis of TMJ, although this is the first step to successful TMJ treatment. Dr. Hill will ask you in detail about your medical history and symptoms. He will then perform a comprehensive exam of your teeth and jaw, which may involve feeling your bite muscles in action and putting pressure on them to determine their health and function.
In addition to digital x-rays that reveal the current position of the jaw joints and the structures of the head and neck, Dr. Hill often utilizes additional advanced diagnostic technologies to most precisely diagnose optimal positioning of the jaw joints to achieve desirable esthetics and relieve TMJ symptoms such as migraines, tension headaches and jaw soreness.
- CBCT Scan: This is an advanced 3D x-ray that allows us to see the entire head and neck including the teeth, jaw, joints and spine in order to better diagnose our patients’ problems.
- Eletromyography (EMG): Essentially, this measures the muscle activity of different muscles of the head and neck. It allows us to better determine which muscles overstimulated. It also allows us to determine our final position where the muscles are least stimulated. In other words, it helps us determine the end before we even start.
- Sonography/Joint Vibration Analysis: this allows us to listen to the joints to better understand what is happening to the joint disc and allow us to determine the presence of abnormalities.
- K7 Jaw Tracking: this allows us to better see the path that the jaw takes when moving and provides us a better understanding of where the jaw should be for optimal positioning of the muscles.
- TENS Unit: This device uses small electrical pulses on the joint muscles in order to relax them to help us better correct the jaw misalignment.
- T-Scan Digital Bite Analyzer: This device allows us to precisely determine how the teeth touch each other and how much force each tooth is undergoing. By understanding which teeth touch and when, we better understand which muscles are being affected. We can also use this technology in order to balance and adjust the bite.
From Diagnosis to Treatment
Once you have been diagnosed with TMJ, Dr. Hill will recommend treatment, which will likely include the use of an orthotic (oral appliance), but may also include orthodontics and other treatment approaches.