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Boston TMJ Doctor Explains TMJ Pain

There are 3 types of TMJ Pain and Symptoms

Jaw Muscle Pain – this is the most common form of TMJ Pain which is often seen as a combination of facial pain, temporal headaches, earaches, chewing fatigue and tension within the jaw muscles. Clenching and Grinding of the teeth can be a cause Jaw Muscle Pain.

Jaw Joint Pain – this is less common and manifests itself as pain in the ears and pain during clicking of the Jaw Joints

Degenerative Jaw Joint Disease – This is the least common form of TMJ pain resulting from the jaw joint bone structures rubbing against the side of the skull. In theses cases the TMJ disc has usually been worn away or is completely displaced so that the jaw bone rubs against the side of the skull

Although Jaw Joint Pain and Degenerative Jaw Joint Disease are observed in some TMJ patients, by far the most common form of TMJ Pain is Jaw Muscle Pain.

Common names for Jaw Muscle Pain Are:

  • Myofascial Pain
  • Musculoskeletal Pain
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia
  • Tic Doleroux
  • Occluso-muscle Pain

For a long time, the cause of Jaw Muscle Pain was highly misunderstood. Some TMJ Dentists thought this pain was coming from poorly functioning Jaw Joints that would giving off radiating pain up and down the patients head. Other TMJ Dentists thought that Jaw Muscle Pain was due to the Jaw itself being improperly aligned with the skull resulting in strain to the jaw muscles. And a 3rd group of TMJ Dentists felt that the Occlusion (or patient’s Bite) was the cause. This group believed that the bite was misaligned in some way resulting again in a strain to the jaw muscles.

It turns out that Jaw Muscle Pain is actually caused by the molar teeth, and can occur in a well aligned bite (like one made with Braces) or in a not so well aligned bite, where back teeth can be twisted or tipped into less than ideal alignment. Not until the T Scan Computerized occlusal Analysis System was developed in the 1980s, could TMJ Dentists really “see” the causes of Jaw Muscle Pain. The T scan could detect fractions of seconds of excessive tooth contact that were not possible to see before its development. These fractions of seconds of tooth contact could only be precisely isolated and measured with this newly available computerized bite analysis technology.

Research accomplished at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine by Dr. Robert Kerstein from 1984-1998, revealed that molar teeth that rub and touch for too long (longer than fractions of seconds) during normal chewing (and during abnormal clenching and grinding of the teeth) directly over-fired (known as Hyper-function) a TMJ patient’s jaw muscles into a state of tiredness soreness, tension and fatigue.

Nerve endings that reside in the tooth sockets of the molar teeth, when compressed by this prolonged rubbing of functioning teeth within their sockets, activated excess muscle contractions in the jaw muscles because these socket nerve endings connected within brain directly to the jaw muscles.This prolonged tooth contact caused prolonged tooth socket compressions that actually instruct the jaw muscles to contract. The longer was the tooth rubbing during chewing or grinding, the longer time the socket nerve endings compressed, and the longer time the Jaw Muscles were made to contract. This tooth socket- muscle firing mechanism repeated with every molar tooth compression during chewing and grinding, such that these lengthy socket compressions were adding on muscle contractions over the long-term in a patients life. The patient’s teeth were then a constant source of excess muscle firing (hyper-function). The over-firing resulted in lactic acid buildup within the Jaw Muscles which lead to the Jaw Muscle Pain

This is why Mouthguards and Appliances like NTIs often help relieve some of the TMJ Pain; they get in between the teeth and interrupt the compressions of the socket nerve endings thereby alleviating some of the TMJ Pain.

But unless the patient’s bite is corrected with T-Scan guided treatment, a patient is forced to wear their appliance forever and this never really cures the patient of TMJ Pain.

A better way without using a dental appliance!

Next Installment – “How does T Scan guided Treatment successfully treat TMJ Pain without Mouthguards and Appliances?”

Here is a link to a Youtube Video of a patient who had TMJ pain and used Mouthguard and Appliances for years before having Dr. Kerstein’s T Scan-guided TMJ Pain Treatment

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