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Think you have TMD? Here's what you need to know (Part 1)

While many dentists view "TMD" or Temporo Mandibular Disorders as being caused by an “abnormal” upper and lower jaw relationship, there is little scientific evidence to show that this is true. File photo
Over the past 15 years, I have seen many patients complain about an increased frequency of headaches, jaw and neck pain. The symptoms seem to be connected to increasing stress and workload. Studies in the US and Europe show that around 20 to 25 percent of people experience some kind of chronic jaw muscle pain or headache.
 
People who suffer from this condition usually seek help from either a dentist or an ENT (ear-nose-throat) specialist. In the absence of anything seriously wrong with the ears, nose or throat, ENT’s may send a patient to a dentist for evaluation of his jaw joint or his “TMJ’s”. The term “TMJ” is not a disease but a body part that refers to the Temporo-Mandibular-Joint. This is the joint that connects the jaw to the skull. The numerous conditions that affect the TMJ’s are more appropriately called “TMD” or Temporo Mandibular Disorders.
 
The common symptoms of TMD are: dull jaw muscle pain usually in front of the ear, pain on the temples, pain and tightness when opening the mouth or on biting. Less frequent symptoms include neck pain, ear pain and non-throbbing mild or moderate headaches. TMD is classified as a musculo-skeletal orofacial pain condition and is not serious.
 
While many dentists view TMD as being caused by an “abnormal” upper and lower jaw relationship, there is little scientific evidence to show that this is true. Some of the unproven, thus unnecessary procedures “TMJ specialists” do to diagnose or treat TMD’s are: increasing upper and lower jaws height through through a series of devices and braces, manually “aligning” the sutures of the skull and measuring body alignment and limb strength and relating those to TMD.
 
The type of TMD (there are at least 15 variants) must be diagnosed and managed appropriately by a dentist who has had credible training in this field of Orofacial Pain. In the next several installments, an overview of the common TMD’s and the currently accepted methods of managing these disorders will be presented. Stay tuned.
 
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Dr. Ricardo Boncan received his training in TMD and Orofacial Pain at the University of Rochester, Eastman Institute of Oral Health in Rochester NY. He is the current President of the Orofacial Pain Association of the Philippines and the Program Director of the University of the Philippines College of Dentistry TMD and Orofacial Pain Program.

 

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