TMJ is a joint connecting your lower jaw to your skull. Saying you have TMJ is like saying you have knee.
Spasms of muscle and pain in the joint are caused by different issues. Sometimes muscles can get uncoordinated because of how teeth fit together or due to trauma in the joint. Some times it can be because of overwork like chewing too much gum – the equivalent of runner’s knee.
Back in early 2000, I started using an NTI appliance to treat TMJ pain. This is a little plastic appliance fitted to your front teeth that is supposed to reduce the muscle activity of clenching. It worked – somewhat. I had an team of women that had TMJ pain which the NTI appliance actually did not work. I needed more information.
Going to Peter Dawson and the Pankey Institute seminars led to a long way of actually learning about bite relationships and how they relate to the joint.
Long story short, there are different diagnosis for different TMJ pain and someone who is trained in this will be able to help. To decipher whether it is a muscle problem versus a joint problem involves an exam and possibly some x-rays and range of motion tests which are fairly simple to diagnose but every treatment will be different depending upon the source of the pain.
For people with joint problems the NTI appliance will be worse. Now that we know this – we can help our patients with a greater sense of certainty .
NTI appliances are great to reduce muscle activity and to help with temporal headaches which are caused by clenching.
I’ll have more about TMJ pain and where is comes from in future blogs.