What Is TMJ?
TMJ, a somewhat confusing term often used to describe a malfunctioning temporomandibular joint, could be at the root of your painful symptoms. When you have an unbalanced bite, your jaws and jaw muscles fight each other to compensate.
Until your teeth fit together in a way that’s comfortable for both, their tug of war battle will only result in painful strained muscles, impacted nerves and painful TMJ symptoms.
Our bite and oral health are more complicated than they may at first appear. For your bite to function and fit, three components must work together: your teeth, the masseter muscles and soft tissues, and your temporomandibular joint. When all is well, you have no pain in the jaw or face area, and there isn’t any clicking or popping when you chew. But if one of the three components creates alignment problems with the jaw, this leads to problems with the bite that can lead to jaw pain that can also radiate down into the neck and shoulders. You are suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
TMJ is often misdiagnosed. Dr. Westman has extensive supplementary training in neuromuscular dentistry and the diagnosis and treatment of TMJ. He uses state-of-the-art electronic instruments such as CT scans and K-7 computerized tracking, and the non-invasive corrective treatments listed above to eliminate your TMJ pain and symptoms.
The Approach To Bite And Dental Health
Temporomandibular joint disorder is one of the world’s most misdiagnosed conditions, and that’s a point of contention with Dr. Westman. He has studied extensively beyond his original dental training to fully understand TMJ and the way it impacts his patients.
He sees the problem as a basic lack of focus in dental program training. Dental programs are still predominantly focused on the hard tissue of the mouth, the teeth and the jawbone. This would seem to make perfect sense — isn’t aligning the teeth and the jawbone the end goal?
It is, but there is more involved. The problem comes from leaving out two key components of a fully functioning, healthy bite and overall oral situation. Sure, the upper and lower teeth need to mesh correctly, but there’s so much more to the equation. The jaw joint must be a part of the functional relationship, the temporomandibular joint.
But what of the muscles and other soft tissue? Any overall view of oral health has to make the muscles and soft tissue the third component.
And that is rarely done. But that’s where Dr. Westman often looks first for answers when his patients come to him with TMJ pain. The muscles of the head and neck are all related to or affected by the bite or jaw relationship. So why does traditional dental training and education still focus almost solely on hard tissue?
Dr. Westman believes there are three parts to this puzzle: the teeth and jawbone, the temporomandibular joint, and the various muscles and soft tissues involved throughout. That perspective will help him get to the bottom of your temporomandibular joint disorder where others may have thus far failed.
Available Treatment Options for TMJ:
T-Scan™ provides us with digital bite force data. It does this through 250+ available sensors to map the patient’s bite force pressure across the entire jaw. This helps Dr. Westman identify early interferences in the bite sequence so they can be removed/treated, allowing correction of the bite into proper alignment.
The T-Scan™ system gives our patients certain benefits when it comes to addressing their TMJ:
- T-Scan™ allows Dr. Westman to show the patient where his or her occlusal imbalances are occurring on various digitally produced images.
- T-Scan™ adds another layer of evidence to verify TMJ causes.
- It allows Dr. Westman to quickly identify and address destructive forces that are creating pain.
- T-Scan™ helps us accurately fit orthotic appliances.
We use our i-CAT system for our TMJ patients, as well. i-CAT is a form of computer-aided tomography, also known as cone beam. While the patient is sitting the i-CAT system takes a series of pictures. The computer software then gets to work, assembling all of the images into a three-dimensional image of your dental anatomy. This is done incredibly quickly and easily. No more bitewing x-rays. Patients simply sit in the i-CAT chair and in just a matter of seconds the i-CAT scan is complete.
Why is i-CAT helpful with TMJ?
Dr. Westman can focus in on specific areas of the head or mouth with his i-CAT system. For instance, he can target the temporomandibular joint in isolation. This can be very difficult to view with other traditional tools such as x-rays. Plus, i-CAT has a variety of visualization tools specifically for TMJ diagnosis and treatment. Another advantage of i-CAT is that the data can then be shared with other dental professionals, such as orthodontists or periodontists, when necessary.
BioPac Systems provides very detailed, high-quality scientific tools for physiology measurement and interpretation. This complex instrumentation allows Dr. Westman to capture physiological data that could be the difference between accurately diagnosing and treating your TMJ pain or just taking a shot in the dark.