Hello, my name is Jeremy Wehking.  I’m a physical therapist and owner of Advanced Physical Therapy Specialists.  I wanted to talk to you today about temporomandibular dysfunction or TMD, it is also commonly referred to as TMJ.

There are multiple causes for TMD, and multiple ways TMD can present.   Let’s start with some of the ways it presents.  Sometimes it is a pain in the jaw joint, with clicking, popping, grinding.  It can sometimes cause headaches, ear pain, face pain, shoulder pain; often times it is a combination.  Now there are many things that can cause these types of symptoms so I’m talking about a non-emergency situation.

Let’s talk about some of the causes for a TMD problem. There are two big categories.  The first is Trauma-a hit to the face, sometimes it’s a recent trauma, but often times it is a trauma that has happened in the past. A fall as a child and little scar on the chin is thought to be a culprit in some cases.  The other cause can be an asymmetry of the head, neck, and or thorax.  These asymmetries lead to stress and pain.

Lack of Uniform Treatment for TMJ problems

The majority of problems I’ll see in the clinic tend to be ongoing for quite a while.  Many of these patients have sought treatment with no success.  Part of the problem is that there is not a uniform treatment program, if you went to the Doctor with a sinus infection; chances are you would get pretty much the same and effective treatment in most cases.  It wouldn’t matter what doctor you went to see.  With TMD chances are you will get treated differently from practitioner to practitioner.  And here is the problem, people will say, oh my dentist already made me a night guard and it didn’t help at all, or it made me worse.  I’ll hear the same thing about other forms of treatment, I saw my PT and it didn’t help or made me worse.    Some treatments are more effective than others, and some are just a waste of time.  I’ve found my approach to be the most effective and efficient way to treat a TMD problem.

I’ve had great success in treating patients with TMJ dysfunction because I look at the body as a whole. You’ve probably heard the song that goes something like “the knee bone is connected to the hip bone.” The TMJ doesn’t function in isolation separate from the rest of the body. It works as a system with the rest of the body, and it can affect other parts of the body- causing neck pain, shoulder pain, or headaches. If the neck is functioning better, TMJ dysfunction can be relieved, and vice versa.

Some patients only need physical therapy treatment to their spine which can relieve the stress on their TMJ. In some cases, a dentist who specializes in the treatment of TMJ dysfunction is needed in addition to the physical therapy. These specialized dentists will address your occlusion (the way your teeth fit together), because your teeth can be responsible for holding your jaw in a poor position. Physical therapy is a great compliment to dental TMJ treatment. In many cases once the occlusion is corrected, the need for physical therapy is greatly reduced. If you are someone who needs a dental specialist involved, I will be able to tell you and get you to the right person as soon as possible.

So there can be a lot of mystery surrounding a TMD problem and the best way to treat it, I hope I’ve helped to answer some of the questions you may have, but I’m guessing you may have more.  If that’s the case give me a call at 720-357-4079 to set up a phone consultation.  Talk to you soon!