Dr. Evola is the only dentist in the Buffalo area, and in all of Western New York, who is fully trained in neuromuscular dentistry and treatment of TMJ. TMJ symptoms are caused by the misalignment and improper function of the temporomandibular joints - in other words, a bad bite. They range from minor annoyances like jaw popping sounds to very severe and chronic pain. Other symptoms may also occur.
To determine that your discomfort is caused by TMJ and to plan proper treatment, Dr. Evola uses a simple TENS machine, as well as state of the art computer technology. He can record full movements of the jaw and record jaw joint sounds to help detect abnormalities. Every person has unique jaw and muscle physiology, so neuromuscular diagnosis and treatment is a custom science that involves careful study of an individual's oral and dental history, health, and habits.
Relieving your pain
The goal of your TMJ treatment will be a permanently relaxed jaw. So before any treatment can be planned, Dr. Evola will use a TENS unit to find where that relaxed position is in your case. The TENS unit has electrodes which are affixed to certain places on the head, neck, and shoulders, and they transmit a mild electrical impulse.
Between 30 and 60 minutes will be all that's needed for this gentle stimulation to relax your jaw muscles. Now your lower jaw will be in its natural position, perhaps for the first time in many years! And as for the pain - headaches, earaches, facial, neck, and shoulder pain - it's all gone when your jaw is relaxed!
When we close our mouth, that's known as our bite, and the dental term is occlusion. It can be well-aligned or misaligned. When it's misaligned, stress builds up in the jaw muscles, eventually pressuring the nerves and causing pain.
Why hasn't your jaw been in a relaxed position all along? The answer to that differs from person to person, and Dr. Evola will discover the answer in your case in order to plan your treatment.
For instance, tooth grinding can be either a symptom of TMJ, or one of its causes. If it's a cause, what then is the cause of the tooth grinding? It could be a psychological cause, in which case some psychotherapy might be recommended as part of your overall TMJ treatment.
If it's a symptom, it could be caused by misaligned teeth. Each time you close your mouth, the jaw muscles try to do it correctly despite teeth being in the way, bumping against each other, wearing each other down prematurely. Such repetition creates chronic stress that can find an outlet in teeth grinding.
Correcting your bite
Once he has recorded and measured your relaxed jaw position, your natural bite, Dr. Evola will determine the best ways to make it permanent. That could include a number of treatments and strategies:
- Designing a custom orthotic, a mouthpiece or splint that can be worn to retrain the jaw muscles. It fits over your back teeth, but stays invisibly behind the front teeth. It's not uncomfortable, but gently nudges your bite towards a relaxed position.
- Reshaping teeth, moving them, or sometimes extracting one or two to make space (many people with TMJ have small mouths).
- If your TMJ was caused by an injury to the jaw joint, surgery is sometimes appropriate.
- Sometimes anti-inflammatory drugs are used, at least for a while.
- Physical therapy might be used in retraining the jaw muscles.
- Hard foods might be avoided for a while, to give the jaw muscles a better chance of resting and relearning.
- Psychotherapy might be used to help you let go of tension or anxiety.
- Most people have a customized combination of treatments
In general, treatment is at first conservative. If simpler neuromuscular dentistry strategies don't work, more vigorous options can be used.
There's no way to cover all the possible options and combinations of treatments here on a web site. If you suspect you have a TMJ disorder, the best thing you can do is to schedule a TMJ consultation with Dr. Evola and let him evaluate what treatment will bring you the quickest relief and comfort.
Call or email our neuromuscular dentist Dr. Evola today serving Buffalo, Amherst, Lancaster, and Williamsville, New York to schedule your neuromuscular dentistry appointment.