As an introduction to our discussion of Temporo-mandibular Dysfunction Syndrome (TMD/TMJ), let's look at the "stock" description of the treatment for this disorder in many website FAQ's:
"A better option is to change the shape of the teeth and get rid of the bad bite completely, often called “realignment.” This is especially useful because it alleviates TMJ symptoms and may improve the aesthetic appearance of the teeth as well. Realignment involves adjusting the relationship between how the upper teeth come together with the lower teeth. This may require new restorations and/or adjusting the natural teeth as well. It is not a painful procedure, and it is one the dentist has performed with great success numerous times."
Sounds good, but, unfortunately, it is completely unsubstantiated, and, in our experience--and, in many clinical studies--the wrong approach to the causes and successful treatment of this chronic inflammatory condition. Of the many factors contributing to the pain and dysfunction associated with TMD, teeth position and contacts are secondary to more important autonomic functions of the lower jaw (mandible)--namely the facilitation of breathing, swallowing and blood flow regulation to the brain. Think about all those folks who exist in life carrying their head in front of their shoulders (forward head posture)--this is a breathing position. But it leads to head, neck and shoulder pain as the muscles are constantly asked to balance this imbalanced 14 pound ball on our shoulders. The lower jaw participates in that constant balancing mechanism-- called "posture"- when we are awake and upright (the mechanics of which is repeated during sleep, potentially at a much greater amplitude). The resulting pain and dysfunction is a price the unconscious brain is willing to pay in order to maintain and balance primary survival functions--breathing, swallowing, and not falling over.
TMD is a chronic, systemic condition, one in which jaw joint and muscle pain and dysfunction can be causative or participatory. We like to put it this way: "the jaw is either throwing the party or coming to the party". We are the experts in this region, but we understand-because this is one of the defining features of chronic disease-other systems of the body can be involved in the pathology. It is essential that, for full, long-term healing to take place in chronic conditions, the system/structure that's "throwing the party" must be identified first and treated. All other pathologies associated with this primary pathology (including TMJ), if still being expressed, can then be treated more successfully as well. For that reason, at Sausalito Dentistry, we collaborate with a wide range of allied medical practitioners: ENT's, Osteopaths, Chiropractors, Oral Myofunctional Therapists, Speech Therapists, Podiatrists, and Acupuncturists.
For more information, or to schedule an initial consultation, Contact Us