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The Temporo-Mandibular Joint gets its name from the fact that it represents the junction of the temporal portion of the skull with the mandible (jawbone). This joint is unique in the body for two major reasons. First, it is not a simple hinge joint, like the knee or the elbow. Instead, it is powered by several sets of muscles, each working to control a slightly different stage of the opening and closing of the mandible. This opening and closing motion involves a three-dimensional rotation of the joint, with each set of muscles designed to act in harmony in order to facilitate proper function. The second unique aspect of this joint is that it is a bilateral joint, meaning that it is impossible for one side to open or close without the other side doing the same. Because of this fact, in order for the muscles of the TMJ to work properly and smoothly, a person's bite should be as balanced (symmetrical) as possible.

TMJ Problems: The most frequent cause of TMJ problems is an imbalanced bite. Other factors can also play a role in the development of problems, such as stress, anatomical abnormalities, arthritis, etc. Symptoms of TMJ syndrome include the following: headaches; sore facial neck and upper back muscles; jaw and ear pain; popping, clicking or grinding jaw sounds; and worn, cracked or loose teeth.

Treatment Options: If the primary source of the TMJ problem is an imbalanced bite (which is usually the case), then it follows that for treatment to be successful long-term, the bite problem must be addressed. The two most common and most successful modes of treatment are Occlusal Splint Therapy and Occlusal Equilibration.

With a bite like yours, it's no wonder you have TMJ problems!
Occlusal Splint Therapy , the most conservative form of treatment, is often the first step in successful long-term temporo-mandibular treatment. An acrylic splint is meticulously designed from impressions and jaw relation records, in order to enable the upper and lower teeth to meet in a way compatible with proper jaw function. The device fits between the upper and lower teeth and is usually worn only at night, since nighttime clenching and grinding is such a common destructive factor in TMJ problems. The goals of occlusal splint therapy are both therapeutic and diagnostic. The therapeutic goal is to relax the muscles and enable the jaw to function properly, resulting in decreased discomfort. The diagnostic goal is to use the splint to determine the precise bite relationship that will facilitate proper TMJ function. Once the appropriate bite relationship is determined, many patients then pursue treatment to have their teeth reshaped or repositioned, to create a healthy natural bite.

Occlusal Equilibration (balancing the bite) may be used when a person's bite problem is fairly minimal, and involves correcting the bite through selective polishing of the teeth. This adjustment of the bite is comfortably accomplished in 1-3 appointments without anesthesia. When treatment is complete, the force of the jaw muscles will be properly distributed among all of the teeth in a symmetrical fashion, which prevents individual muscles or individual teeth from being over-stressed.

The Success Rate of TMJ treatment in our office is close to 90%. The amount of success that can be achieved for any given patient is usually dependent upon how long the problem has persisted prior to treatment. Long-standing TMJ problems eventually cause irreversible changes inside the jaw joint, which sometimes requires surgical treatment. However, a large majority of TMJ problems can be successfully treated non-surgically, if detected and treated at an early stage.