TMJ literally means temporomandibular joint. The term TMJ has been used for years to represent a whole bunch of symptoms related to the mandible, or lower jaw; the teeth and the muscles attached to the skull and mandible. The term TMD, temporomandibular dysfunction, is now used to represent these problems. Every normal human has TMJs, only some have TMD.
Like many fields of medicine that direct treatments at the symptom instead of the whole patient, the vast majority of educational institutions with recommendations on how to treat TMD represent nothing but “expert” opinions founded on junk science. One institution teaches the use of electromyography to diagnose improper muscle activity, charging thousands of dollars. Assuming that the muscle imbalance is caused by the bite, a.k.a. the way the teeth come together, extensive dentistry is usually prescribed, resulting in costly fees to follow.
A lecture I attended last year concluded that the best treatment choice was drugs, in this case Gabapentin, which has the side effect of depression. Therefore, the lecturer recommended a tricyclic antidepressant which has further, sometimes dangerous, side effects. Of the many continuing education courses in TMD I have taken, each one has been symptom-oriented, forgetting the patient and what caused the symptom in the first place.
Decades ago research was conducted that found those with TMD symptoms held their teeth together an average of 16 hours a day, while those without symptoms averaged minutes per day. The teeth are only supposed to come together when swallowing. There is no question that a bad bite can be one of the underlying factors in TMD, but why is the patient holding their teeth together?
This is where a holistic approach can mean the difference, not only in treatment of TMD, but in all fields of medicine. Let’s take a look at the decades old finding mentioned above and ask why is the patient holding their teeth together?
One big factor preventing this approach is that it takes much more understanding of patients, requiring much more time, (money), and a greater understanding of physiology, psychology and general health of the patients. One of the best medical books I have read is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. If you already read it, read it again. If a doctor can’t communicate and get you to believe he/she cares, then how can you know that you are understood?
In a holistic practice, many times I recommend lifestyle changes. Those changes won’t happen if the patient does not believe in me. I have had cases where a change in the diet took away the symptoms after years of suffering. In some cases the underlying cause of the headaches required referral to a gastroenterologist, pulmonologist or other specialist to get to the root of the cause.
Most of my difficult cases are stress related, but, again, what’s causing the stress? It could be hormone imbalance, poor sleep, food sensitivity or many other factors. There are side effects to giving drugs for stress. The side effect of treating the cause to get relief is a healthier, happier patient.
If you are suffering from TMD or even have symptoms of sleep apnea, come in for a complimentary consultation. Advanced Oral Diagnosis & Treatment Center is located in Danville. You can contact us at aodtc.com or call 925-837-8048.