If your dentist or physician suspects you are suffering from TMD, they may decide you should have a joint sound study, or sonographic analysis, to verify your diagnosis. This may sound like something from a science fiction flick or something you’d more commonly find in a mechanic’s garage than a healthcare office, but a joint sound studycan play a vitally important role in the diagnosis and treatment of TMD.
The Physiology Behind Joint Sound Study
Joint Sound Study is based on two principles of physics: motion and friction. Each joint in the human body has surfaces that rub together or slide over each other as the joint functions. Smooth surfaces with proper lubrication and correct placement with regard to their surrounding anatomy produce little to no friction when they meet. Little friction produces little vibration. However, a damaged, displaced, or degenerating joint will not function smoothly and easily in its surrounding anatomy. It will produce friction, which creates vibration, or a sound. While it is sometimes detectable by ear, the most accurate analysis will be with a joint sound study.
Think of it this way: A rusty hinge will squeak and grind as you open the door. A well-oiled hinge will not. A sagging hinge will also creak and grind, and may even prevent the door from opening. A well-placed hinge will not. All that grinding, squeaking, and creaking causes vibration to travel through the door and door frame. The same goes for your jaw joint.
How Joint Sonography Works
There are a few different joint sonography equipment manufacturers available. Leading Dentists uses Myotronics’ K7 system, which consists of 3 technologies:
- Jaw tracking: A computerized mandibular scanner and sensors track the movement of the patient’s jaw. This is totally non-invasive. When the scan is complete, the dentist has a three-dimensional view of the patient’s mandibular rest position and general jaw structure, which gives valuable insight.
- Electromyography: An 8-channel electromyograph equipped with bipolar surface electrodes provides the dentist with data about 8 muscle sites at the same time, in real time. When the scan is complete, the dentist has a measurement of electrical activity in the muscles, which provides insight into the physiology within the muscles.
- Joint sonography: For this portion of the analysis, a lightweight headset with vibration transducers is placed over each temporomandibular joint. The transducers record tissue vibration via sounds in the joint. The patient moves their jaw around while the transducers record this sound data. This provides the dentist with valuable information about how the jaw joint is working while being completely non-invasive to the patient.
All of this data is analyzed to gain a good understanding of what’s going on with the patient’s jaw joint and what should be done to improve the problem(s).
The Benefits of Joint Sonography
Joint sound analysis benefits both patients and healthcare professionals. The patient can often have their TMD diagnosed and treatments begun before serious symptoms occur. This can save them time, money, and painful trial and error. Also, the test takes just minutes of your time and gives almost instant results, meaning you’ll be spending less time being analyzed and more time being treated.
The dentist benefits in several ways, too. The test is quick to perform. It is also highly accurate, meaning he or she can be assured that the diagnosis is correct and the course of treatment likely effective. The test is also simple to perform, meaning that support staff can largely administer it. Treatment effectiveness can be monitored more accurately with repeated analyses.
Joint sonography is a quick, painless, accurate way of assessing what can be an otherwise difficult condition to pinpoint. The symptoms of TMD are so varied and can have so many varied causes that it often goes undetected for much longer than it should. Joint Sonography offers a way of solving that problem and getting relief to the patient sooner than otherwise possible.