If TMJ treatment is searched on the web, one will find many different options for treatment as well as some that list themselves as TMJ specialists. There is no recognized American Dental Association specialty in TMJ so technically, there is no such thing as a TMJ specialist. Some practictioners have a special interest in TMJ treatment and focus on this issue and associated treatments.
Many patients present in our office with past TMJ treatments of a removable “splint” and are unable to function daily with this splint or piece of plastic in their mouths or have found that the arbitrary treatment of simply placing a removable splint in the mouth has not helped them.
Is there a better way or a more functional way to treat these cases? In most cases, the answer is yes. Rather than use a removable splint in which the bite position was simply determined by lying the chair back and taking a bite, computerized EMG (muscle reading like EKG of the heart) can be used in conjunction with 3D scans to determine the best physiologic position for the joints, neck, and even addressing airway issues.
Rather than place a removable splint which comes out to eat and function, a fixed orthotic designed to the correct physioligic position can be utilized. This orthotic is a functional orthotic that is temporarily bonded in place and patient’s can eat, chew, and function with it 24/7. This looks like ones natural teeth as well. Once the TMJ patients are stabilized, a long term treatment plan can be developed to move the teeth to this comfortable position. This allows the patients not to have a “splint” the rest of their lives.
Even more importantly, before taking the bite to the better physiologic bite or position, the cervical and jaw joint position is assessed and treated too. If there are displaced discs (usual reason for popping and joint noise), these are recaptured and the neck issues are also treated before and during treatment. Other factors also addressed should be airway, facial symmetry and posture.
TMJ treatment should encompass the many factors that comprise this complex system and not only address the teeth.