The ABC’s of TMJ Disorder

Orthodontists Take High-Tech Approach to Treating Condition
Delaying treatment can lead to more serious issues

Dr. Andrew Chase(Issued Spring 2019) — “Many people are surprised to learn that several apparently innocent ailments may be symptoms of TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder,” says Dr. Andrew Chase of ARCH Orthodontics which operates nine offices between Boston and Hyannis. The TMJ (joint) refers to the joint, muscles and nerves that open and close your jaw.

Dr. Chase observes, “Considering how much we chew, speak, yawn and swallow every day, it’s not surprising to learn that the TMJ is one of the hardest working joints in your body, or that an estimated 10 million Americans are suffering from TMJ disorder at any given time. When all the ‘parts’ are working in concert, you take the smooth operation for granted. But when the TMJ gets overworked, stressed or out of alignment, it can malfunction and lead to painful and disruptive symptoms. TMJ disorder can be a result of stress or injury, a misaligned bite, teeth grinding, arthritis or degenerative bone defects, or poor posture which can be the result of lengthy computer or cell phone use or a combination of any of these.

During his 21 years at ARCH, Dr. Chase says he regularly sees patients complaining of jaw pain, headaches, earaches, facial pain, jaw ‘clicking,’ ear ringing, limited jaw mobility,  excessively worn teeth. It’s more common in women than in men.  “We offer several leading-edge orthotic devices that can realign the teeth and jaw. We suggest addressing TMJ ASAP. There’s no need to suffer.”

Left untreated, nerve pain and damage caused by misalignment of the jaw may become permanent. While most symptoms are mild to moderate, certain symptoms like reduced jaw mobility can create serious health problems such as the inability to chew food properly – and that can lead to nutritional deficiencies.

TMJ disorder often gets misdiagnosed because the symptoms don’t always stay within the jaw joint itself. In fact, the first warning signs can be a tension headache, pain around the ears, or neck and shoulder stiffness.  Orthodontists are uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat TMJ disorder thanks to their additional two years of advanced training beyond dental school.

Treatment depends on such factors as the overall health of the patient, medical history, tolerance of medications and mouth appliances, and the extent of the disorder. Dr. Chase says treatments include jaw rest, stress management to reduce jaw clenching, pain medications, mouth exercises, heat and cold compresses, and orthopedic appliances such as mouth guards to reduce effects of tooth grinding.

ARCH, now marking its 45th anniversary, offers a free initial consultation and interest-free financing at its 9 offices between Boston and Cape Cod. Courtesy discounts are offered to anyone serving in the military and their families and veterans.