Recently as I flipped through a running magazine I came across an article that discussed the process of getting better following a leg injury. After reading this article I reflected for a moment on the current state of thinking within the dental profession as it relates to TMJ treatment options and the process of getting better following the emergence of symptoms in the TM Joints and jaw muscles.
The running article in a straightforward fashion outlined the principles of healing that would be required for typical leg injuries, inclusive of sprains/strains in order to get better. The focus, as expected, was on resting the injured tissues, supporting the injured tissues with wraps and braces based on the established diagnosis, heating/icing the area of concern, using medications to decrease pain, inflammation, and spasm, and employing home care strategies or formal physical rehabilitation efforts. The article repeatedly conveyed the theme that healing is a process and that similar orthopedic injuries may require different timeframes and treatment selections from person to person.
Unfortunately when it comes to TMJ problems, there continues to be a constant emergence of alternative strategies that seem to suggest that healing can only occur if assisted by some sort of high-tech wizardry and rearrangement of the teeth and jaw relationships. In fact, over the last 6 to 12 months endless email messages have been sent to dentists in the U.S. and abroad that offer new technologies that not only ‘cure’ TMJ problems but add an ongoing profit center to dental practices.
According to the ‘experts’ who are behind the sales pitch, accurate diagnoses can only be made with electronic instrumentation, which tracks jaw motions, and sensors which record the sequence, intensity, and duration of tooth contacts when the teeth are brought together.To the uninformed and sometimes vulnerable patient, these bells and whistles are rather convincing but unfortunately add cost and unnecessary treatment, usually inclusive of multiple sessions of ‘bite balancing’ or ‘bite reconstruction’ based on data collected on technology that has no scientific support.
To further cloud the issues, if a patient gets better during the weeks or months of technology guided treatment, success is attributed to the technology, not to the passing of time, or other strategies that may have been initiated.
The take home message
Jaw problems like other orthopedic problems typically get better without electronic technology. Though seeking professional care may be essential to your recovery, if more time is spent by the doctor you chose hooking your head and jaw up to sensors and tracking devices, getting a second opinion is recommended and probably in your best interest.
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Dr. Donald Tanenbaum is a specialist with offices in New York City and Long Island, NY. He is uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat facial pain associated with jaw problems, TMJ, referred pain, nerve pain, and migraines. Find out more at www.tanenbaumtmj.com.