Any treatment of temporomandibular joint disorders–known as TMJ–or orofacial pain must be a holistic one. Since the great majority of conditions called TMJ–over 90%–do not originate in the temporomandibular joints themselves but rather in the muscles and other structures of the head and neck. Furthermore, a common finding is stress–emotional, ergonomic (often job-related) or due to trauma. Other contributing factors are potentially harmful habits, such as: clenching or grinding of the teeth–usually during sleep, when the patient is unaware–excessive gum chewing and smoking, as well as poor nutritional patterns, for example, high sugar intake and caffeinated beverages.
With these elements in mind, holistic treatment of TMJ and other orofacial pain disorders commonly proceeds in stages:
- Diagnosis of the problem, including identification of any contributory factors. This is via a thorough history and examination.
- Communicating these findings to the patient in a consultation where the patient is encouraged to ask questions and clarify any points not completely understood. At this time, the patient’s role in the treatment regimen is outlined and its importance stressed, and any necessary written instructions and guides provided.
- Any other disciplines whose expertise can be of help in the healing process are identified and recommended to the patient, or the patient is actually referred, if desired. These often include one or more medical specialties, Chiropractic, Physical and/or Massage Therapy, Acupuncture, restorative Dentistry, Nutrition and whatever other help the patient requires.
By recognizing the many factors involved in TMJ and orofacial disorders and enlisting the patient and other health care professionals in the healing process, successful treatment outcome is much more.
TMJ Source: Stephan Winber, DDS, MPS