Beyond his extensive training in general dentistry, Dr. Young is also trained in neuromuscular dentistry. Neuromuscular dentistry is an area of dentistry that focuses on the alignment of the jaw, in particular how the teeth, jaw joints, and facial muscles work together when opening and closing your mouth. Sometimes pain caused by alignment issues with the jaw can radiate to other areas, making it very difficult for a general dentist to diagnose or even understand the problem. That’s where Dr. Young’s specific training at the Dawson Center of Advanced Dentistry benefits his patients.
neuromuscular dentistry vs. general dentistry
General dentistry looks at the health of each individual tooth with the goal of addressing issues such as decay and tartar buildup. Neuromuscular dentistry views the teeth, jaw, head, and neck as an interrelated whole. This approach allows Dr. Young and Dr. Weststeyn to customize treatment plans that address problems such as jaw pain, overbites, unusual tooth wear, and temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ).
What Is Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ)?
The temporomandibular joints, called TMJ, are the joints and jaw muscles that make it possible to open and close your mouth. Located directly in front of your ears, your TMJ work together when you chew, speak or swallow and include muscles and ligaments as well as the jaw bone. They also control the lower jaw (mandible) as it moves forward, backward and side to side.
Each TMJ has a disc between the ball and socket. The disc cushions the load while enabling the jaw to open widely and rotate or glide. Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working properly may result in a painful TMJ disorder.
What Causes Jaw Pain?
To have a balanced bite, your teeth, the masseter muscles, and the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) need to work together. Problems arise when one or more of this trio becomes misaligned. Pain originates in the jaw, but often radiates down the neck and into the shoulders. It can be chronic and debilitating.
There are a host of signs that you may suffer from TMJ:
- Pain or tenderness in the jaw
- Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
- Aching pain in and around your ear
- Consistent headaches
- Ear ringing
- Difficulty chewing or pain when chewing
- Clicking or popping when chewing
- Aching facial pain
- Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
What causes TMJ?
Finding the direct cause of a patient’s TMJ can be challenging, but that’s where Dr. Young’s specialized training benefits his patients. Causes can be related to problems with bite alignment, but also can be due to less obvious factors such as stress and teeth clenching during sleep. There is even thought to be a genetic predisposition to TMJ.
These are the typical causes of TMJ:
- Misalignment of the teeth and/or the jaw
- Long-term teeth grinding
- Trauma to the teeth and/or jaw
- Stress or anxiety
- Poor posture in the neck and upper back
- Teeth clenching
How Is TMJ Diagnosed?
When a patient describes some of the symptoms noted above, Dr. Young and Dr. Weststeyn start the diagnosis process by looking for jaw alignment problems. They perform a muscle and joint palpation where they watch and feel for function in the different facial muscles and the TMJs as you open and close your mouth. Pain and tenderness are signs of overuse of the muscles or of misalignment. Locks, pops, clicks, and catches when the jaw is moved are definitive signs of TMJ.
Beyond palpation, Dr. Young or Dr. Weststeyn may order these additional tests:
- Full-face x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs — These will show the position of the jaw and TMJs.
- Electromyography (EMG) — An EMG uses the electricity generated by the jaw muscles to measure both muscle and nerve function.
- Sonography — Sound waves can help determine if the jaw is misaligned. Dr. Young and Dr. Weststeyn also listen for abnormal sounds when the jaw is used.
- Computerized imaging of the jaw — The resting position of the jaw is measured to identify misalignment.
Treating TMJ usually involves a combination of lifestyle changes, cosmetic and general dentistry, and possible nerve stimulation. These are some of the methods we use at Ridgeview Family Dental to relieve our patients’ TMJ symptoms.
- Splints or night guards — Since night grinding and clenching is a main factor in TMJ, it’s important to put the jaw in the correct position at night, limiting the grinding. To do this, we fabricate plastic mouthpieces that fit over the upper and lower teeth. These are usually worn at night.
- Cosmetic dentistry — To correct alignment, Dr. Young or Dr. Weststeyn can replace missing teeth with dental implants or bridges, crown overly worn teeth, or move the teeth with orthodontics. This can involve widening constricted arches.
- Lifestyle changes — Stress and anxiety are often root causes of TMJ; stress reduction techniques are important.
- Exercises — Tightening the jaw muscles and clenching the teeth is a common cause of TMJ problems. We have various jaw exercises that stimulate and relax the jaw muscles.
Schedule a Consultation
TMJ problems can be misdiagnosed if the dentist doesn’t have specific neuromuscular dentistry training. If you have been experiencing jaw pain, frequent headaches, or any other symptoms of TMJ, you can benefit from the neuromuscular dentistry expertise of Dr. Young. Contact us at 660-747-9117 to schedule a consultation, so that we can put the chronic pain behind you. We serve Grain Valley, Odessa, Bates City and surrounding areas.