If you have been suffering from the pain and anxiety associated with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) — including difficulty chewing, clicking jaw / tmj lockjaw, ringing in the ears, headaches, facial pain or jaw muscle spasms or any of the other common TMJ symptoms – you are sure to have some questions.
Primarily, you are looking for a dentist who will offer you a professional evaluation of your TMJ as well as treatment options based upon the latest training and experience. Choosing the right dentist is an important step.
To make the best decision for your health care, set up a consultation appointment with a dentist who treats TMD. Ask that dentist to share details about his or her training, practice and approach to treatment of TMJ disorders. Treating a TMJ requires in depth knowledge of a condition that can be hard for even the smartest medical professionals to understand. Additionally, having an expert operate the tools used in diagnosis can be the difference in an accurate TMJD diagnosis. Your neuromuscular dentist should be happy to discuss this with you. Having the right information can ensure that you reduce your road to recovery and gain a treatment recommendation that is right for your specific condition.
Here are 10 important questions to ask TMJ Dentists:
- Where did you receive your dental training? Do you have post-graduate training?
- It is important the dentist has had TMJ specific training and has learned to properly use the tools associated with diagnosing a TMJ disorder. The best training is obtained from advanced educational institutions, after graduation from dental school. By researching the dental school you can decide if the education provided meets your standards for care.
- How long have you been in practice?
- Experience matters, particularly with cases of TMD. While it is true that a young dentist may be highly effective and provide great care, they should have a few years under their belt and postgraduate training in jaw joint disorder if treating TMJ dysfunction.
- Where and with whom do you receive TMD training?
- Ask about specific TMD educational institutions and courses. Ask about treatments that they have used to effectively treat the root cause of temporomandibular conditions.
- What percentage of your practice is TMD-related and how many TMD patients have you treated?
- Many dentists will have case studies on their websites.
- How do you diagnose TMD?
- You can learn how neuromuscular dentists properly go about diagnosing TMJ disorders here. For instance, a complete health history should be a part of the procedure and specific tools such as jaw tracking, t.e.n.s, MRI and other imaging technology can be used to eliminate causes that are not musculoskeletal.
- Please explain your TMD treatment protocol.
- Look for an emphasis on non-invasive treatments first followed by invasive alternatives only in cases of internal derangement or severe disc damage. Jaw surgery should be a last resort unless a diagnosis shows severe internal derangement of the TMJ.
- What self-care do you recommend?
- Your dentist may recommend home treatments as a first step for treatment while a complete diagnosis is completed. These may include changes in your diet, TMJ massage, stretching and use of hot and cold compress to alleviate inflammation and muscle tension. For more information on how you can help alleviate your symptoms at home see our tmj home remedies blog post or read up on the details of the TMJ Diet.
- What is your success rate in treating TMD and what factors determine that rate?
- Knowing how long patients have experienced fewer symptoms or have been symptom-free is important. While exact numbers are impossible to relay, dentist should have anecdotal evidence supporting the effectiveness of their treatment.
- Would you share with me some patient testimonials?
- These can be in the form of letters of recommendation the dentist has on file or in the form of contact information. HIPPA laws may prevent sharing specifics, however, many patients are happy to share their experience in support of the TMJ community.
If you are satisfied with the responses, schedule an appointment for an initial exam. Here are some specific follow-up questions to ask after that first office visit:
TMJ Diagnosis Questions
- What is the measurement of my jaw movement from side to side? How does it compare to a normal jaw measurement?
- These measurements can indicate restriction of jaw movement that can be causing pain.
- Do you perform any of the following procedures? Why or why not?
- Your Dentist should be able to give you good insights into the tests used to diagnose TMJ, why and how they are used with relation to the specifics of the dysfunction occurring in your TMJ joint. Since the symptoms of TMD vary from person to person, you want to select a dentist that is up-to-date with a wide range of diagnosis, imaging and treatment options.
- Bioelectric Testing (to check sounds within the joint)
- CMS (to record delicate jaw movements)
- EMG (to measure and analyze electrical activity in the jaw both at rest and during movement)
- TENS (to relax jaw and facial muscles)
- What are my x-ray results?
- Your dentist should show you your x-rays and to explain them. They may utilize a sonogram, MRI, CATSCAN and other imaging technologies to understand the relationship between the hard and soft tissues in your jaw.
- What is causing my condition?
- Your dentist’s thoughtful answer should be based upon your history, your examination and your test results.
- What treatments do you recommend?
- Look for non-invasive treatments as the first steps. These often include the use of a TMJ mouthguard, often called an “orthotic”, and use of t.e.n.s. to relax the jaw muscles and prevent damage to the joint and teeth.
- Would an orthotic help my condition?
- The dentist should be able to provide a knowledgeable answer as to why he or she would or would not recommend trying this. There are also many different types of TMJ mouthgaurds that they may consider. You can educate yourself on the types and usages of a TMJ mouth guard.
- How much would my treatment cost?
- Your dentist should have clear written information on all procedure costs and any insurance coverage options. While insurance does not always cover TMJ disorder treatments, many companies are changing their policies as more is being learned about the condition and effective treatments.
- How long should it take to notice an improvement in my condition?
- Each person’s response to treatments varies. Severity, cause and progression of the condition will be considered and a range will be dependant on the nature of the dysfunction. Some patients do experience immediate pain relief.
- Would there be another treatment phase? Please provide details and costs.
- Here, you are looking for the next step if the first treatment option is unsuccessful. If the use of an orthotic is successful they may provide more information on the oral reconstruction (crowns, for example) that can permanently resolve the root cause of TMJ.
- Would you print out these options for me so that I can review them?
- Your dentist should provide you with the details of your visit in writing so that you can weigh your options carefully.
Armed with the right questions you should be able to filter out self proclaimed “TMJ Specialists” and find a trained expert for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of your TMJ disorder. You will also find that all of the TMJ dentists listed here have completed the Core VII training for neuromuscular rehabilitation at LVI institute for advanced dental training and have extensive experience and proper tools to diagnose and treat TMJ disorders effectively.