Novi Cosmetic Dentist | Dr. Joseph Serra
Most people see the jaw simply as a joint that opens and closes when we speak, yawn, eat and so on. However, these joints, called the temporomandibular joints (TMJ), though they may seem to be simple hinges, are actually a very complex system of tendons, bones, muscles and nerves. All of these parts are connected to the teeth directly through the jaw bone. The TMJ also works alongside with other musculoskeletal systems in the body including the spine and neck.
When the TMJ are not in proper alignment, usually due to an incorrect bite, you may experience a variety of TMJ symptoms including:
- Jaw pain
- Neck pain
- Tinnitus (ringing in your ears)
- Broken teeth
- Clicking in your jaw
Some of these symptoms will come and go while others seem to be constant. The good thing is that you can find treatment for TMJ in Novi with Dr. Joseph Serra, a well-qualified neuromuscular dentist.
Treatment of TMJ
Throughout the years, there have been several approaches in treating TMJ. Many times patients are given the option to simply treat the symptoms or, on the other extreme, undergo invasive surgery to re-align the TMJ. Neither of these methods is truly ideal which can often turn patients away from TMJ treatment. However, Dr. Serra is certified in properly treating TMJ using non-surgical methods. If the main source of your TMJ disorder is an imbalance in your bite, he will be able to correct the imbalance and alleviate your TMJ symptoms such as headaches, jaw pain and more.
TMJ Treatment Process
In order to treat TMJ disorder, there are various steps that need to be followed:
Establish The Baseline Performance of Your Bite
Dr. Serra will use a K7 evaluation system, which is used for jaw tracking, electromyography and joint sonography, to establish the baseline performance of your bite. He will be able to see where and how your jaw moves when you open and close your mouth. The K7 will provide readings of the exertion the muscles must use when opening and closing your mouth, as well as when it is at rest. This bite analysis is completely painless aside from any discomfort you may usually feel when opening and closing your jaw.
Relax the Bite
Next, a TENS unit will be used. This technology sends ultra-low frequency electrical pulses to the muscles of your jaw and sometimes your neck. Using electrode pads that are applied to your skin using conductive gel, the pulses radiate and will rhythmically contract and relax your TMJ muscles. During this bite relaxation treatment, many patients report instant relief of their TMJ symptoms, such as jaw pain or migraines. Though this may seem like the answer, using a TENS system is only part of the process and provides only temporary relief.
Determine Your Ideal Bite
After TENSing, Dr. Serra will reconnect you with the K7 evaluation system and repeat the series of tests that he did before, but this time, your muscles will naturally find a more relaxed position of rest. The data recorded this time will help to properly locate where your bite should be.
Neuromuscular Orthotic Creation
Once Dr. Serra finds your ideal bite, his team will take an impression of it. A lab will use this bite impression to create an oral appliance known as a neuromuscular orthotic. The orthotic is worn over your teeth for a set period of time. This orthotic is used to help keep your TMJ in-line and retrain the muscles in your jaw. The splint can be used for a few weeks, or a few months or even indefinitely depending on the treatment plan that is right for you as determined by Dr. Serra. This is the most important part of TMJ treatment as it sets the stage for the next phase of treatment.
Deciding What’s Next
After using your neuromuscular orthotic for a period of time and your bite has been stabilized, you and Dr. Serra will decide what the next phase of your treatment will be. Depending on your bite’s unique needs, you be able to keep using it but only on a part-time basis as in a night guard. In other cases, Dr. Serra is able to make minor adjustments to the teeth called coronoplasty to bring the teeth into the bite position established by your orthotic. Sometimes orthodontic treatment is used to realign the teeth into the new bite, or in some cases, the patient opts to have a full mouth reconstruction. This consist of using porcelain veneers and dental crowns to “instantly” realign and reshape the teeth into the new position. Many times, the solution is a combination of these treatments.
Importance of TMJ Treatment
It may become problematic to ignore any symptoms of TMJ disorder. If you believe you may be suffering from it, contact Dr. Serra so that your TMJ can be treated properly. Not getting treatment will only cause even more problems and pain.
If you live in the Detroit area and you believe that you’re suffering from TMJ disorder, don’t hesitate to contact our Novi dental office. Dr. Serra can get to the root of your TMJ problem and can provide you with the proper relief you need and deserve. Send us an email or call us at (248) 380-9330 to schedule an appointment. For your convenience, you can also book an appointment online!