Neuromuscular Dentistry & TMJ
Serving Northern Virginia including Oakton, Fairfax, Reston, Alexandria, Arlington and Washington D.C.
Not all dentists practice neuromuscular dentistry. It is an approach to dentistry that looks at more than just teeth and gums. A neuromuscular dentist can diagnose and treat many painful symptoms that might otherwise be puzzling and resistant to medical treatments. It is thought that a majority of Americans suffer to some extent from the symptoms of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD), which is a misaligned jaw joint. TMD is also abbreviated as TMJ.
The Jaw Joints
The jaw joints are in front of the ears and you can feel them by placing a finger there and opening your mouth. They are ball and socket joints with a cartilage pad as cushioning to prevent bone rubbing on bone. When the lower jaw (mandible) closes, the upper and lower teeth should meet smoothly and comfortably. This is your occlusion, also known more informally as your bite. A misaligned jaw can cause malocclusion: teeth meeting in an incorrect and unhealthy way (also called a bad bite). Many painful symptoms can result from a bad bite.
- Severe and recurrent headaches, often thought of as migraines
- Jaw and facial pain
- Earache and ringing in the ears
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Teeth grinding (which can also be a contributory cause)
- Popping or clicking sounds when the jaw moves
- Inability to open the jaw fully
- Tingling in the hands and fingers
The causes are not all fully understood. The jaw joint can be knocked out of position by a blow to the head, such as you might sustain in a sports or road accident. It can also be gradually pushed out of position – for example, by a teeth grinding habit, or by misaligned or crowded teeth constantly meeting in a bad bite. Genetic factors are sometimes involved.
Dr. Chung has completed training at the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies, known as LVI. LVI is the school of choice for post-graduate dentistry, and offers intensive training in neuromuscular dentistry, among other things. He has extensive experience in diagnosing and treating TMD, and has invested in the sophisticated technology for it.
Pain relief occurs in one of the first steps of testing for TMD. If you have any of the above symptoms, you might have seen several doctors and taken various medications for pain relief. They may have been temporarily effective. But most doctors do not look for dental causes of pain.
It would be a good idea to visit an experienced neuromuscular dentist to rule out TMD. The TMD symptoms can also arise from other health conditions. If you learn that you do not have TMD, your search for pain relief will have progressed, and you can continue looking for the right doctor. If you learn that you do have TMD, your search is ended.
Dr. Chung uses the K7 Evaluation System and the 3D Cone Beam Dental Scanner to assist us in our treatment and analysis. It will allow him to measure and record your jaw movements, muscle activity, and jaw joint sounds. With a tomography machine, he will obtain images of the joint. He will use a TENS unit (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), with its small electrodes, to gently exercise your jaw muscles until they relax. When they relax, your jaw will be in its correct position, and to make that relaxed position permanent will be the goal of your treatment.
Every case of TMD is unique, and your treatment plan will be yours alone. It may involve temporary use of an appliance to retrain the jaw muscles or splint to move the lower jaw forward. There may be some physical therapy. There will very likely be some dental work such as reshaping teeth or repositioning them. With your approval and help, Dr. Chung will plan and coordinate the best sequence of steps to eliminate your painful symptoms and correct your jaw alignment. In the process, you might also acquire a new, enhanced smile, as a healthier smile will also be a more beautiful smile. Dr. Chung keeps aesthetic considerations in mind in all his dental work.
For more information, see Question about Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD/TMJ).
In these days of advanced neuromuscular dentistry, you do not need to live with TMD pain.