Are you experiencing persistent jaw discomfort or other symptoms that disrupt your daily activities? These could be signs of a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), a condition affecting many but often overlooked in its early stages.

At Michigan Head & Neck Institute, we understand the complexities of TMJ disorders and the importance of timely, effective treatment. In this article, we delve into TMJ disorders and guide you on whether you should consider advancing to ‘Phase II’ TMJ treatment.

Understanding TMJ Disorders

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is an intricate part of our anatomy located just below the ears on either side of the head, connecting the jaw to the skull​​. It plays a vital role in allowing us to chew and speak. However, when issues arise within this joint or its surrounding muscles, it leads to TMJ disorders, collectively referred to as TMJ.

TMJ disorders encompass a range of jaw-related problems. The three most recognized types are:

  • Myofascial Pain Disorder (MPD): This involves pain in the jaw muscles and surrounding tissues, making it the most common type of TMJ​​.
  • Disc Displacement (DD): Occurs when the cushioning disc in the joint moves out of its normal position.
  • Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD): Involves conditions like osteoarthritis affecting the joint’s integrity.

Patients can experience one or a combination of these types, affecting the treatment approach.

Causes and Symptoms of TMJ Disorders

TMJ disorders can stem from various factors:

  • Congenital or developmental bite issues.
  • Muscle strain due to habits like bruxism (teeth grinding)​​.
  • Jaw imbalance and trauma, including incidents like whiplash.

These conditions lead to a spectrum of symptoms, including:

  • Jaw or facial pain.
  • Headaches, including migraines.
  • Irregular jaw motion and sounds like popping or clicking​​.
  • Limited jaw movement or lockjaw.

Recognizing these symptoms early is key to managing TMJ disorders effectively. Our approach focuses on diagnosing and treating these conditions at their source, ensuring a comprehensive understanding and tailored treatment for each patient​​.

Initial Treatment Approaches

At Michigan Head & Neck Institute, our approach to treating TMJ disorders starts with conservative, non-invasive methods. These initial treatments are designed to alleviate symptoms with minimal side effects and form the foundation of our TMJ management plan.

Orthotic Device

An orthotic device, like a mouthguard, balances the jaw and maintains it comfortably. Initially, patients wear the orthotic full-time, reducing usage as their condition improves​​.

Physical Therapy

This includes exercises, massaging the area around the joint, and applying heat. In addition to manual techniques, we utilize TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) for muscle relaxation and pain relief​​.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy aims to help patients avoid habits that exacerbate TMJ and develop healthier practices. We provide referrals to behavioral therapists or psychologists when necessary, especially if psychological factors contribute to TMJ symptoms​​.

Trigger Point Injections

This involves administering a slight anesthetic at key pain points to deactivate trigger points and provide relief. This technique is particularly effective in relieving TMJ pain and is a specialty of Dr. Klein, honed over decades of practice​​.

These initial treatments often yield significant improvement for many patients. However, if symptoms persist or the condition does not improve as expected, it may indicate the need for a more intensive treatment approach. In some cases, we recommend moving on to “Phase II,” but many times, we recommend further refinement of our current techniques.

What is ‘Phase II’?

Many dentists will refer to ‘phase II’ TMJ treatment. This is when dental treatments such as orthodontics, crowns, veneers, or dental implants are used to build up the teeth permanently in order to hold the jaw in the correct position.

If Dr. Klein recommends this for you, he’ll refer you to a restorative dentist he trusts.

Are There Less Invasive Options to ‘Phase II’?

Yes! We evaluate the effectiveness of initial treatments, particularly the orthotic device, in managing your TMJ symptoms. The orthotic, designed to hold your jaw in a comfortable and balanced position, plays a pivotal role in determining your treatment progression.

If symptoms persist despite using the orthotic and undergoing other conservative treatments like physical therapy and behavioral therapy, we consider adjusting the current treatment approach rather than transitioning to traditional dental treatments.

Continued Treatment Options

Our continued TMJ treatment involves refining and enhancing the current conservative measures based on your unique response to the initial treatments. This may include:

Advanced Orthotic Adjustments

Modifying existing orthotic devices for better effectiveness or transitioning to different orthotics that provide more support and correction.

Intensive Physical Therapy

Incorporating more targeted physical therapy techniques, including advanced modalities to address persistent muscle issues and joint dysfunction.

Expanded Behavioral Therapy

Expanding on initial behavioral therapy with more specialized techniques or focused interventions, especially if behavioral factors play a significant role in TMJ symptoms.

Our approach remains focused on non-invasive and minimally invasive treatments, and we do not typically transition to traditional dental procedures or surgical options for TMJ management. Instead, we aim for a comprehensive and personalized treatment plan that addresses your symptoms with the least invasive methods possible.

Your Path to TMJ Relief

We are committed to providing patient-centric care, starting with conservative treatments and progressing to more advanced options only when necessary.

If you are experiencing persistent TMJ symptoms or are not seeing the results you hoped for with initial treatments, we encourage you to reach out to us at Michigan Head & Neck Institute. Schedule a consultation online or call (586) 573-0438 to discuss your TMJ treatment options and take the next step towards relief and improved oral health. Our team is ready to assist you with expert care and guidance. Contact us today to begin your journey to better TMJ health.