TMJ, also abbreviated TMD, stands for temporomandibular joint disorder. This condition can cause many different symptoms and can be easily misdiagnosed. Dr. Ryan Clancy at Divine Smiles in Boston is an experienced neuromuscular dentist who can help to identify and diagnose TMJ and work to create an effective treatment plan.

If you have been experiencing chronic headaches, jaw pain, or other symptoms, call us at (781) 396-8558 to schedule your TMJ consultation or make an appointment online.

What Is TMJ?

TMJ occurs due to problems with the temporomandibular joint—your jaw joint. It acts like a sliding hinge and allows your jaw to open, close, and move forward and side to side. The temporomandibular joints sit on either side of your head, just below your ears, and running through it is your largest cranial nerve, the trigeminal nerve. This joint is highly complex and can become damaged or misaligned by improper bite mechanics. This can happen through:

  • Teeth grinding
  • Broken or worn down teeth
  • Improperly placed tooth restorations
  • Trauma to the jaw
  • Missing teeth
  • Arthritis
  • Stress

Your jaw joint can become stressed and pushed out of place due to overused jaw muscles, slip in and out of place because of a structural problem, or joint inflammation can pull on your ligaments and nerves that run through the joint. TMJ can occur for all types of reasons, and the treatment depends on the root cause. Treatment can look different for everyone. In a thorough examination, Dr. Clancy can help pinpoint the cause or causes of your TMJ and recommend a long-term treatment plan to help alleviate your pain.

TMJ symptoms can be highly varied, leading to misdiagnosis since not all signs are localized to the jaw. Common symptoms of TMJ include:

  • Chronic headaches or migraines
  • Jaw popping, clicking or grinding
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Eye pressure
  • Sinus problems
  • Lockjaw

Many people suffering from TMJ turn to chiropractic, painkillers, and jaw stretches to relieve the pain, which can be debilitating in some cases. While these treatments may work temporarily, they do not address the root cause of your symptoms and can’t provide long-term relief. Working with a Boston neuromuscular dentist to find the proper alignment of your jaw is the best way to relieve symptoms permanently.

Suffering from TMJ symptoms can decrease your quality of life and lead to problems getting enough sleep or nutrition due to the pain. In addition, taking too many painkillers is bad for your overall health and can lead to addiction. Let us help you find a long-term treatment and improve your quality of life.

man holds his jaw in pain, experiencing TMJ symptomsTMJ Diagnosis

If you are suffering from TMJ symptoms, you will need to see a qualified neuromuscular dentist for a diagnosis. Dr. Clancy utilizes some of the latest neuromuscular dentistry technologies to diagnose and find the best position for your jaw.

First, Dr. Clancy will listen to your symptoms and medical/oral history. If your symptoms line up with typical TMJ symptoms, he will ask you if you grind your teeth or if you’ve had restorative dental work done recently. He may also ask if you’ve had any trauma to the jaw.

He will then examine your jaw and teeth to look for potential culprits causing jaw misalignments, such as worn-down or missing teeth.

Dr. Clancy utilizes the TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) device to stimulate your facial muscles and help your jaw relax naturally and comfortably. He also uses K7 technology to map how your jaw moves while relaxed, allowing him to find the best treatment approach to help your jaw move and rest comfortably.

TMJ diagnosis technologies are not uncomfortable or painful and are invaluable in helping Dr. Clancy formulate the best treatment plan for your individual case.

woman suffering from a migraine headacheTMJ Treatment

Treatment for TMJ can involve a number of different approaches, depending on what’s causing your jaw misalignment. Some of the more common treatment approaches can include:

Orthotic Device: A customized orthotic device can help keep your jaw in a comfortable position with less pain. You may need to wear this device 24/7 or just at night. Some patients find that they are happy with just the orthotic device, while others would prefer to have dental work done to restore their bite permanently.

Restorative Dental Work: In many cases, we can correct a misaligned bite through restorative dental work or correction of previously done restorative work. We may recommend dental crowns, bridges, implants, fillings, or even full-mouth reconstructions, depending on your needs.

Orthodontics: Sometimes, your teeth may need to be straightened and re-aligned through orthodontic treatment such as Invisalign or epigenetics to treat your TMJ fully. Your TMJ treatment plan will be fully customized for your unique needs and may take months before completion, depending on what is needed. It’s important to be patient and to fully commit to your treatment plan for the best results. Dr. Clancy will help relieve your pain from the beginning with temporary treatments such as muscle relaxants, heat, jaw exercises, and eating soft, easy-to-chew foods that don’t put too much strain on your muscles. These treatments are only temporary, though, and once your pain has receded, he will embark on full, permanent treatment.

Natural Ways to Relieve TMJ Pain

In addition to your treatment plan, there are other ways to relieve your TMJ pain in the meantime. You can apply a moist heat pack wrapped in a towel to your jaw. This will reduce pain and also increase the function of your jaw. Switch between moist heat and an ice pack. Be sure to wrap the ice pack in a towel and only apply for 10 to 15 minutes.

To relieve TMJ pain, you can also avoid eating crunchy or chewy foods that require you to chew too much. For best practice, stick with soft foods for a few weeks to see if it reduces your pain. You should also avoid chewing gum as it overworks your jaw.

Patients can also find relief by taking over-the-counter pain medications, sleeping on their side, and practicing relaxation techniques. Reducing your stress through meditation, yoga, or a massage can help loosen up your TMJ joint and help you relax. You can also support your chin when you yawn to prevent your jaw from locking up.

With these natural remedies combined with an actual treatment plan designed by Dr. Clancy, you can expect to start experiencing relief in the next few weeks. It’s essential to stay patient during the recovery time.

LVI Training for TMJ Diagnosis and Treatment

Dr. Clancy trained in neuromuscular dentistry at the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies (LVI), considered one of the best dental training institutes for post-graduate studies in cosmetic and neuromuscular dentistry. LVI fellows have completed a rigorous curriculum covering the most advanced technologies and techniques. They are committed to continuing education to keep abreast of the latest and best ways to treat their patients.

Neuromuscular dentistry requires special training to recognize how the muscles, bones, nerves, teeth, and gums all work together and to be able to ascertain what is going wrong and treat it in a holistic manner. Your teeth can affect more than just your mouth, and a specialist in neuromuscular dentistry will be able to recognize when this occurs.

Does Insurance Cover TMJ Treatment?

If you need TMJ treatment, insurance may cover part of it. How much, if any, is covered depends on your individual insurance plan. Here at Divine Smiles, we accept most major insurance plans, and will work with your insurance company to get you a coverage estimate.

If your insurance does not cover as much of your treatment as you would like, we also offer financing plans to help you cover the cost of your TMJ treatment plan. We work with CareCredit and Lending Club, which offers 0% and low APR financing plans of different lengths depending on your needs and budget.

Getting treated for TMJ and finally having relief from chronic pain and headaches is well worth the cost for most of our patients. You can’t put a price on such a dramatic increase in quality of life. If you are concerned about budget, please talk to Dr. Clancy and our patient coordinator about your concerns so we can help work something out for you.

Schedule Your TMJ Consultation in Boston

If you have been suffering from undiagnosed chronic pain in your face, neck, jaw, shoulders, or back, see us as soon as possible. Call Dr. Clancy at (781) 396-8558 to schedule your consultation today or make an appointment online.

Leaving TMJ untreated can lead to problems with posture and your overall health. We are happy to use all the tools at our disposal to diagnose you accurately, fix your bite, and alleviate your pain.

We serve patients in Woburn, Winchester, and the Greater Boston Area.