Tempromandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) can be characterized by pain and compromised movement of the jaw and surrounding muscles. Common symptoms include clicking and locking of the jaw, difficulty chewing, and jaw pain. Also common are headache, muscle spasms, and joint locking. In the United States, more than 3 million cases a year are diagnosed. Treatment for TMJ includes stress management, relaxation, physical therapy, mouth guard, NSAIDs, and analgesics.
Neuromuscular dentistry is a dental treatment philosophy intended to correct a “malalignment”of the jaw at the temporomandibular joint and produce a balanced bite. The neuromuscular dentist uses several computerized instruments to measure your jaw movements and jaw muscle activity to determine the extent of your problem and to establish a “physiologic rest position” for the jaw. Here are some of the measurement techniques and procedures used:
- Sonography – Measures vibrations from the joint when you open and close your mouth to identify joint derangements.
- Electromyography (EMG) – Involves placing surface electrodes over the jaw muscles that pick up electrical impulses and send them to the recording instrument. It is used to measure the activity in the muscles during various movements.
- Jaw Tracking (Electrognathograph, Kinesiography) – Analyzes mandibular movements three dimensionally. A headset is placed on the patient and a magnet is attached to the lower front teeth. Recording of the lower jaw movement is then made.
- TENS – Ultra-low frequency electrical stimulation of the muscles to relieve muscle spasms and pain and help establish a “physiologic” jaw position.
Once the rest position of the jaw is determined, the patient undergoes extensive restorative dental procedures or orthodontics to maintain this new position.