TMJ disorders, or problems with the jaw joints, are very common. Misaligned teeth are often the culprit. When a bite is off, our teeth, jaw joints, and chewing muscles are like a car with a set of tires out of alignment. Something is going to give… often it’s either the teeth or the joints that break down. Think of a wobbly table in a restaurant that has a short leg. If the bite off, the joints are strained and dislocating. All the muscles that work our jaws are constantly straining to hold the wobbly system. Other causes can be health issues like sleep apnea. If there are airway issues, the jaw sometimes will posture forward which can cause muscle strain. Hear more from Dr. Michael Verber ad he discusses these issues on Good Day PA.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of a TMJ Disorder?
Early signs can be popping and clicking in the joints, sore muscles, and tension headaches. As the breakdown progresses, more acute pain and jaw locking can occur. People that are noticing clenching and grinding are at higher risk for these sorts of problems.
How to Treat TMJ Problems?
The exciting thing is that they have some amazing new technology at the Dental Specialty Center where Dr. Verber works, that has totally changed his approach. The office has a state-of-the-art imaging unit that gives us a CT scan x-ray of the joints with very low radiation. And there are now dental radiologists that can read these images and tell us what is going on internally with a patient’s joints.
We know if the joints are healthy and stable enough to treat the underlying issues and sore muscles. If this is the case, we can often use tooth polishing techniques or Invisalign to address a bite issue. Or we can treat sleep apnea. But if we know the joints are breaking down, we will manage things with special appliances that are custom-made to address the specific type of breakdown in an effort to heal the joints and achieve stability.
Does Medical or Dental Insurance Cover Treatment?
Unfortunately, a lot of this therapy falls between disciplines. That is why not a lot of doctors are treating TMJ problems. And it is also why it is hard to get insurance coverage. This is usually an out-of-pocket expense for most patients in our office. However, we try to keep costs manageable and intervene early to avoid bigger more expensive problems down the road.