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What Is TMJ?

TMJ stands for “temporo-mandibular joint.” Your temporo-mandibular joint is the hinged joint which connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull. A problem or disfunction of this joint is referred to as TMD or temporo-mandibular dysfunction. While not totally accurate, many times the terms TMJ and TMD are used interchangeably to describe temporo-mandibular joint disfunction.

The top diseases associated with Temporo-Mandibular Dysfunction (TMD) are:

  • OMD (Occluso-Muscular Disharmony)
  • Physical damage to disc or ligament of the joint
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Avascular Necrosis
  • Progressive Condylar Resorption
  • Arthritis
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans
  • Infection
  • Lyme Disease
  • Cancer
  • Cyst

Nearly 80 percent of TMD is caused by OMD. This is good news for most people who suffer with TMD since it can usually be solved with the proper therapies.

OMD (Occluso-Muscular Disharmony) is a condition whereby the teeth, muscles, joint and central nervous system are “out of sync.” The mouth is a machine: if one portion of the machine is not functioning correctly, the rest of the machine suffers. In the case of the mouth, this can mean sore muscles, tiredness, headaches, sore teeth, worn, broken and loose teeth, painful joint(s), noisy joints (popping or clicking), ear aches, and other issues.

This “machine” of ours is comprised of teeth, muscles, bone, joint, ligaments and a brain that controls it all. A change in any one area will affect the others. The easiest part of this machine to change is the teeth. By affecting a change to the teeth, we can affect the other parts of the system and improve the mouth’s function.

So what therapies are available for OMD?

The first and most common treatment is splint therapy. Splint therapy is a way to artificially create an ideal bite and create harmony in the system. Many times, teeth get in the way of the joint properly seating; when this happens, muscles have to brace and work harder to stabilize the joint. A splint can correct this issue and allow the muscles to relax and seat the joint into a “fully seated joint position.” Splint therapy helps the dentist figure out what is happening with the system. This treatment is diagnostic but can also be therapeutic. Splints are more than a piece of plastic your dentist sends off to a dental lab to be made. They require extreme precision and skill to tune to create a positive change in a patient’s musculature and joint. Splint therapy can take multiple visits over many months.

Another method of TMD treatment is DTR or disclusion time reduction therapy. A little background information is needed to explain this: Every tooth in the mouth is connected to the bone via a periodontal ligament (PDL). These PDL’s give sensory information to the brain that then send signals to the muscles. If teeth hit at the wrong time, then muscles get information telling them to become hyperactive. In contrast, if the correct teeth hit at the right time, the muscles get signaled to relax. Hyperactive muscles can become painful. You know that burning, sore sensation in your muscles after working out? That is caused by lactic acid. This same process can occur in our chewing muscles.

Diagnosing TMD and TMJ Technology

Georgia Dental Medicine regularly employs the use of all these technologies.

Therapies for the other 20 percent of TMD cases include, but are not limited to, splint therapy, physical therapy, medications, orthodontics, surgery, arthrocentesis, BOTOX® and others.

A thorough evaluation of the patient, history, range of motion, imaging (3D), listening to the joints and review of the bite should be done prior to any treatment by our dentist.

Please call our office at 770-973-6494 to schedule an appointment and to treat your TMJ disorder in Marietta, Georgia. Note that there are TMD forms on the Patient Forms page that you will need to complete.

Please fill out these two questionnaires before coming in for a (TMJ) jaw pain appointment.

Here is a one-page summary of TMD issues that you can print out and keep for later reference.