TMJ / Physiologic Dentistry
What is Neuromuscular Dentistry?
Neuromuscular dentistry is an area of dentistry that focuses not only on the teeth as they relate to the jaw, but on the nerves, muscles and joints as they relate to the jaw. Neuromuscular dentistry works to achieve an optimal bite (occlusion) and jaw alignment. Dr. DeStefano is a neuromuscular dentist that can examine how all parts of the mouth and jaw work together. The objective is to relax the jaw muscles in order to identify the true resting position of the jaw.
What is TMJ Disorder (TMD)?
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder (TMD) refers to disorders that results from problems with the jaw or facial muscles involved with jaw movement. The TMJ enables the jaw to move and function normally and is one of the body’s most frequently used joints. TMJ is the joint that allows us to talk, yawn, chew, and swallow. Any conditions that prevent this joint from functioning properly, may cause Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).
Causes of TMD
What causes TMD is not always clear, but is believed to develop from problems with the jaw muscles or the joint itself. TMD may be the results of many factors, including:
- Trauma to the head or neck
- Clenching or grinding of the teeth
- Bad “bite” or missing teeth
- Malalignment of the upper and lower jaws
Does your jaw click or pop when opening or closing your mouth? Does your bite feel awkward or not balanced? Do you have chronic headaches, neck pain or jaw joint (TMJ) pain? These all can be a result of TMJ disorder. Symptoms can be barely noticeable or can cause debilitating pain.
TMJ disorder can cause discomfort and pain that is constant or intermittent, with symptoms that can include:
- Chronic pain in the face, jaw, neck, and shoulders
- Limited ability to open the mouth wide
- Difficulty chewing
- Uncomfortable “bite”
- Swelling on one or both sides of the face
- Clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth
- Headaches and neck aches
“I suffer from headaches, migraines and TMJ issues. Over the years, my pain was often consistent and relief was with short term. I exhausted many options with neuro, ENT, dentist, headache centers, massage therapy, chiropractic care and PT. I was in pain constantly. I had a night guard, which helped temporarily but found it was not a permanent solution and I was now worse than before because my teeth shifted. I looked into orthodontists, oral surgeons and found that even though on their websites, they advertise help for TMJ and related pain; once I contacted them, they told me it is not a thoroughly explored area and their expertise is limited. I decided to do some research and find someone who has taken the time to study headaches and TMJ issues and wanted to see their efficacy. I found the LVI physiological based neuromuscular dentistry; they are Patient Centered Practice and have long term proven success (20+ years!). I contacted Dr. Dickerson who created this program, and he put me in touch with Dr. DeStefano here in Rochester. Dr. Dickerson highly recommended Dr. DeStefano and assured me I would be in great hands under his care! Dr. DeStefano and his assistant Emily have been wonderful! They have taken the time to explain everything to me; they have undergone extensive LVI training and consult with Dr. Dickerson to ensure we are on the best path for me! I feel so blessed to have found Dr. DeStefano and his practice! They are extremely kind and patient care oriented and you know what? I have had a huge reduction in my symptoms! My husband is amazed at the results! We have told everyone we know we suffers with similar issues.” -Natania L.
In order to diagnose TMD, a physical examination and other tests may be performed. Many tests for diagnosing TMD are designed to rule out other conditions that may be causing the same symptoms. Tests to diagnose TMJ disorder include:
- Clench test
- CT scan or MRI scan
- Computer bite analysis
- Joint-vibration analysis
- EMG Analysis
Treatment for TMJ disorder depends on the severity of the condition, and may include:
- Stress-reduction exercises
- Muscle relaxants
- Low-level-laser therapy
- Mouth protectors to prevent teeth-grinding
- Changing diet to soft foods
- Heat or ice packs
- Avoidance of extreme jaw movements
Results of TMJ Treatment
When at-home remedies do not treat your TMJ disorder, Dr. DeStefano can ease your pain. In neuromuscular dentistry, we correct your bite so that your muscles, TMJ joints and teeth all work together in harmony. By correcting your bite, we enable the muscles that move your jaw to function properly resulting in the most comfortable position of your jaw to eliminate pain and discomfort.