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Why isn’t TMD taken seriously?

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

Oftentimes, jaw joint problems have been labeled to be “self-limiting”, irrelevant or fashionable diagnoses. The patient is being dismissed, claiming that his or her ailments were only “in their head”. Well, of course, we all know, this is not true. While one should not exaggerate what TMD does to someone’s body (there might be even worse conditions or disabilities), we also must not underestimate the impact it has on one’s health in the long-run.

Apart from the symptoms of feeling unwell, in pain, sick, dizzy, nauseated, there are distinct consequences that can become very serious. For instance, people who are unable to eat properly can become underweight and unable to receive sufficient calories or vital nutrients. Unbearable pain for more than weeks will cause depression in almost anyone. If the pain lasts more than months, many become suicidal. This is just how it is, let’s face it.

But did you know that TMD also affects breathing? Mouth breathing, snoring, and sleep apnea are associated conditions and very common consequences. Modern medicine has shown that these consequences shorten life span significantly, yet jaw and neck problems haven’t been well identified to be the causative factors so far. Everyone should understand that the most important thing any living being does is breathing. You breathe, you live, don’t breathe, don’t exist. It is as simple as that. And breathing is intricately linked to how your teeth meet, how your jaw is being postured, and how your skull sits on top of the cervical spine.

If you have TMD, it has likely affected your spine already. Many sufferers aren’t able to move properly anymore, can’t sit for an extended time, don’t want to go for physical activities, and in severe cases, develop dystonia or spasms binding them to bed. A condition that can go that far – reducing the airway (and even disrupting it), affecting your body coordination and ability to live that much – should be taken seriously. It is a medical condition, not just something to joke about. Some people might joke about something they have no idea of but no reader of this blog will ever joke about TMD.

Becoming aware of what you have helps you, and it empowers you to explain your condition to significant others in your life – to your friends and family, colleagues, customers or employers. Some day in the future, it might even enable you to explain what you have to some negligent doctor. We can help you to understand what you have, what you suffer from, why you’re suffering from it, and what you can possibly do to get better.

(c) jaw-joint.com 2022

General warning: What must NOT be done under TMD, yet is still being done

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Over the last decades, some of the treatments offered to TMD sufferers have been proven to be useless, irrelevant or even more damaging. Every affected person should know the worst pitfalls out there. Therefore, we list them here, and if you want to know more, you can reach out to us.

1. Injections into the jaw joints of any kind

Jaw joints are naturally sterile, no needle fully is. Therefore, “wash-outs” or “arthrocentesis” procedures are a bad choice as your jaw joints are not dirty and do not require cleaning. On the contrary, as they are sterile, injections of any sort introduce foreign material into the jaw, potentially creating more serious issues. Probing of jaw joints using needles should not be done either. There are better ways to get to know what’s going on.

2. Orthodontic treatment

Braces or aligners might give you artificially straight looking teeth, yet those are very different from a naturally good bite. Orthodontic treatment may give you a more  “beautiful” smile, but it comes at a price. It causes the jawbones to move downwards, the maxilla to drop clockwise, and this causes the mandible to retrude, hence pressuring the jaw and neck joints. Apart from the fact that orthodontistry is irreversible, and even contraindicated in cases of TMD according to the American Dental Association, there are many other reasons for not having it done.

3. Prosthodontic treatment without diagnosis or test-drive

Oftentimes, the so called “full mouth rehabs” are being offered to TMD sufferers. That’s not the thing to do. More often than not the jaw and neck joints are not being taken into account, neither in terms of diagnosis, nor treatment. Large prostho treatments could be the very last step after test-driving a bite for an extended period of time but this requires much caution and knowledge beforehand.

4. Night “guards”, inadequate “splints”

TMD is not being caused by “clenching” or “grinding”. The latter are consequences of TMD. Simply protecting the enamel via some kind of plastic is not the thing to do as it often worsens breathing, the airway and body coordination, creating more problems for you. Not rarely do “splints” worsen jaw joint compression. Everything you put in between your teeth over an extended period of time must be carefully handled as it shifts structures, not only teeth, irreversibly.

5. Shaving of teeth or “disclusion time reduction”

These are irreversible procedures that compress the jaw joints even more. They are not an adequate kind of treatment by any means. Horror stories are numerous, so this kind of invasive treatment must be dismissed. Don’t do it. No matter what you do, don’t do it, you got us?

6. Jaw surgery without proper diagnosis

Such an operation is very invasive, and irreversible. Jaw joint “replacements” are mechanically very different from natural jaw joints. They don’t have the best prospects in the long-run, and the materials of these artificial joints are known to cause allergies. Advancement surgery of the jawbones often does not take into account the jaw joints, so that any result regarding the jaw joints is often pure coincidence. Could get better, could stay the same, could get worse. That’s gambling, right?

So what’s the right thing to do then? –Well, this depends on your personal problem and situation. There is no cookie-cutter solution. If you want to know more, contact us (jawandneckjoint@gmail.com) and we can arrange a meeting for your needs.

(c) jaw-joint.com 2022

How to prevent TMD in children?

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Much emphasis has been given so far to the causes of TMD within this blog. But how can you prevent your boy or girl from developing jaw joint problems? First, damage done cannot be easily reversed without a lot of time, effort and money. Therefore, the following suggestions based on research and experience are much easier and cheaper to follow than any kind of medical treatment.

TMD has often to do with the birth process. In the past, women gave birth squatting instead of lying on their backs, as this is the natural way that puts the right amounts of pressure on the baby’s skull in the right spots for healthy development. A caesarean (C-section) birth should be avoided as much as possible as they do not provide the necessary pressure and it also does not give the child the needed microbiome from passing through the intended birth channel.

The next thing is, breast-feed! Do it as long as possible, ideally for the first two, or even better, three years of lifetime. The mammal’s nipples allows for tongue training. Correct tongue posture is crucial for adequate jaw development. Avoid spoon-feeding with mushes or porridges, as this will alter your baby’s pattern of using their tongues. Instead, give them pieces of hard food to hold on to, and to suck and chew on under supervision, allowing them to strengthen their teething jaws and learn how to properly swallow.

Next, make sure your child grows up in a natural environment with good surrounding materials. This includes housing. Wall paints, heating systems, climate controls, plastics or carpets leaking chemical fumes may induce subdued allergies in your child, causing noses to clog and mouth breathing, which in turn will alter tongue posture even more, and give malocclusion. If your child has become a mouth breather, look for getting myofunctional therapy for him or her. This is much superior to orthodontic treatment later. If tongue training is not enough there are ways of early intervention with appliances addressing the root cause. Please ask us what we would suggest.

Even in cases of given malocclusions, please refrain from braces, such as the common railroad tracks or aligners. These do not address the root cause, and might induce further harm. Please do not have teeth, such as wisdom teeth, removed. They are not unnecessary teeth. Blatantly wrong is the extraction of premolar teeth in preparation for orthodontic treatment. This is now common knowledge, yet extraction and retraction orthodonistry with elastics between jaws is still being done. We suggest to you not do that. It is better to accept the looks of crooked teeth than to do that. Having crooked teeth is far better than to have fake camouflage straight-looking teeth, but developing TMD due to treatment.

Please also consider improving your child’s lifestyle towards a more natural upbringing. Avoid prefabricated soft foods. Give your child enough time to play outdoors with their friends in nature. Don’t stress your child. Let your child be a child and develop freely with less pressure. Nowadays there are already enough burdens coming from school and high expectations on the shoulders of our children. If you want to know more about how to prevent TMD in your child or if you have specific questions, contact us for further information.

(c) jaw-joint.com, 2022

What could have caused your TMD?

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Many different causes have been identified and discussed within the scientific literature. Hence, TMD is often called a multifactorial disease. But is that true? Or can we name a specific root cause? Contradictions within the medical community are clearly evident to anyone who has been in the field. What is being suggested by one branch, is often being contested by another, and is the exact opposite of what is being suggested by still other third parties.

Parts of dentistry and orthodontistry claim that a genetically induced malocclusion was the main culprit. That means that you would have inherited the problem from your ancestors, like in the typical example of saying someone has “dad’s big teeth” and “mom’s small jaws”. Therefore, these parts of medicine suggest their appliances and procedures such as braces or aligners, or splitting sutures and orthognathic surgery to be the solution. But did your parents or grandparents have your exact same problem? And did you know that here is a branch of alternative dentistry that claims TMD is being caused by wrong prosthodontic or orthodontic work?—They indeed think that an alteration of your bite has caused your TMD. They therefore offer their splints, orthotics and full mouth rehabilitation ––as they call it––with crowns, onlays, or further orthodontic treatments to you.

In contrast to this, other parts of medicine claim that TMD was a psychosocial condition. Patients would grind their teeth, which was the cause for what they call bruxism. They suggest you to just relax, do psychotherapy, biofeedback or physiotherapy, and prescribe you what they call night guards to protect the tooth enamel from clenching. Then again other parts of medicine suggest that there was no identifiable cause at all, and that you would have to simply take large amounts of strong pain medication or even paralyze muscles via botox injections in a quest to eliminate what they call pain memory. But do you want to take opioids and NSAIDs for the rest of your life, eventually become in need of dialysis, and finally of a kidney or liver transplant in the future?

Again, other parts of medicine claim that the problem is in the jaw joints themselves. They suggest to you to do injections or wash outs called arthrocentesis, although there is no evidence to suggest that anyone’s jaw joints were dirty. On the contrary, jaw joints are naturally sterile and should not be opened with needles or other instruments. Often these surgeries lead to bigger surgeries, until you are asked to do a total joint replacement, although these operations are apparently not being done to reduce pain. At least this is what is explicitly written in the manufacturers’ brochures. Also, jaw joints prostheses do not allow you to fully move your jaw, like a natural jaw joint. For instance, you would be unable to jut your jaw forward, and the replacements are prone to fail over time. On top of that, allergies to the materials and other adverse reactions may occur. We don’t want to horrify you by naming names, but we want to suggest much more conservative ways of treatments based on a diagnosis of your root cause.

While each branch of medicine might be correct within the confines of their perspective, our own research suggests that TMD has one deep common root cause that sums up all the others. It is a distinctively altered anatomy with certain traits that are very common amongst sufferers, with individual variations of course. This is due to environmental influence––including that of medical procedures––, and lifestyle. We live our lives mostly indoors, don’t move much, eat soft foods, and often have allergies or breathing problems. Neck problems are very common, and they are intricately linked to TMD. While dental procedures often trigger and even exacerbate TMD, they are most likely not the deepest of deep root causes. It is not just about the bite or the occlusion. It has to do with how your teeth meet for sure, but what about the relationship of your jaws to the skull? How does your skull sit on top of the cervical spine? What about your way of breathing, swallowing and overall posture?

Neither must we simply look at teeth and boney structures, nor do we claim that TMD was solely muscular or nervous in nature. All of these systems are affected but the root cause lays deep down in your health and life history. Let us explore what is your cause, and find out specific treatment options for your problem.

(c) jaw-joint.com 2022

How do I know that I have TMD?

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Many sufferers have come a long way from seeing doctors and doing research until a practitioner uses the term TMJ on them for the first time. Usually this process takes months, if not years. More often than not the assumption of having TMD is mainly based on a large list of symptoms, after other diagnoses were ruled out. So what are the typical signs of a jaw joint problem?

Affected persons will experience headaches, neckaches, migraines, stiff muscles on their bodies; and noises in their jaw and neck joints. This goes way beyond just not feeling well. It includes debilitating ailments such as fibromyalgia, dizziness, tinnitus and nausea. Also digestive, vision, hearing or breathing problems may occur. A dentist might blame you for clenching or grinding your teeth. In severe cases, dystonia, muscles spasms or even tics might occur. But rarely is the connection between all of these common consequences of TMD seen. Did you know that even snoring during nighttime or breathing through your mouth might be a signs of TMD?

The suspicion of suffering from TMD is not an exact diagnosis. In fact, the term TMD does not have a standard pathway of treatment. On the very contrary, different branches within medical thought have been fighting one another instead of recognizing the connections. This has to do with how in Western medicine, the body is artificially being divided into sections. TMD, however, is a systemic anatomical condition that crosses the borders between dental problems, joint problems; and muscle and nerve issues.

TMD has often been called a chameleon that might give you different symptoms on different days. It often worsens after eating, and symptoms might change during the day. But only when you don’t know what you don’t know that this appears to be a weird condition. It is exactly that situation of feeling lost that sufferers suffer most from. They don’t know what’s going on with them, neither do their doctors know, and very often their family and friends start asking about the mental condition of the affected person.

But how then, do I know that I have TMD? We can help you to precisely find out the root cause of your problem by advising you on which testings, images and examinations can be done. Let us connect the dots for you, so that you can find the necessary help to get better. Only when you really know what’s going on with you can you find the right help.

(c) jaw-joint.com 2022