Everyone experiences headaches from time to time. But, if you regularly suffer from headaches, facial pain, and other symptoms, you might be surprised to learn that the problem could arise from issues in your jaw. TMJ dentistry strives to identify the cause of headaches and myofascial pain, treat the symptoms and the underlying issues, and improve quality of life.
Dr. Ira L. Shapira is a world-renowned authority on headaches and TMJ dysfunction (TMD). He has dedicated a significant part of his more than 40 years of dental practice to relieving pain. Contact Think Better Life by calling 1-847-533-8313 to schedule your comprehensive consultation.
What Is TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the small ball-and-socket joint that connects the upper and lower jaws. There is one TM joint on each side of the face. When properly aligned, the TMJ aids in everyday activities like eating and speaking – many of us take for granted what these joints do.
Unfortunately, misalignment and dysfunction of the TMJ can lead to a host of systemic problems. Possible causes of TMJ dysfunction include:
- Misalignment of the joint
- Problems with the joint capsule
- Deformities inside the joint
- Internal derangement of the joint
- External factors affecting the joint’s function
You may hear TMJ and TMD referred to interchangeably, but this is inaccurate. The TMJ is a structure within the body, whereas TMD is a condition that encompasses TM disorders, myofascial pain, and other factors. Dentists who refer to TMJ and TMD as one and the same would be equivalent to visiting an orthopedist for knee problems, and having him tell you that you have “knee.” You likely wouldn’t return to that doctor, as the language he uses betrays a lack of expertise.
Read Dr. Shapira's latest contribution to the literature on neuromuscular and TMJ dentistry.
Symptoms of TMD
For its small size, TMJ dysfunction can have wide-ranging effects, including:
- Tired and sore jaws
- Trouble chewing
- Clicking or popping in the jaw joints when opening or closing the mouth
- Locking of the jaw
- Neck pain
- Pain in the ear
- Tinnitus (chronic ringing in the ears without auditory stimuli)
- Back pain
Diagnosing TMJ disorders can be difficult. Many dentists and doctors fail to diagnose TMD because of the often wide-ranging presentation of symptoms and because the symptoms mirror those of other conditions. Misdiagnosis is common, often because medical professionals don’t recognize the systemic nature of TMJ dysfunction.
Dr. Shapira understands the global aspects of TMJ disorder. During your initial consultation at Think Better Life, he will thoroughly review your medical history and carefully order tests and imaging to get to the root of your symptoms.
Diagnosing TMJ Disorder
Diagnosis, treatment, and even pain relief may begin all at once during your first visit to Think Better Life. For most patients, a neuromuscular diagnostic appliance is the first step of treatment. As you wear this reversible orthotic device, it begins to start correcting the TMJ. As this happens, the effects transfer from the head to the spine through body and back to head. Dr. Shapira will re-diagnose the head and neck as body changes affect the jaws.
In order to determine if your TMD symptoms are connected solely to jaw problems, Dr. Shapira may also use a hydraulic appliance to determine if issues in other parts of the body, such as long leg/short leg, back problems, and more, are connected to your symptoms. He will also perform tests to separate ascending problems (issues from feet the hips back up to jaw) from descending problems (symptoms originating in the jaw that spread to the entire body).
Many patients with TMJ dysfunction also suffer from sleep and airway problems. These are opposite sides of the same coin, and treatment may involve remedies for sleep apnea, head position problems, and developmental issues affecting the airways.
Neuromuscular dentistry is the field of dental science that strives to improve not just oral health but overall bodily function and well-being by taking into account the joints, muscles, and nerves in and around the mouth. Dr. Shapira takes this a step further, frequently referring patients to doctors and providers who can help with specific aspects of TMD, headaches, and myofascial pain.
Depending on your symptoms, your team may include:
- Sleep physicians
- Behavioral optometrists
Dr. Shapira will also carefully evaluate the function of your trigeminal nerve. Nicknamed the “dental nerve,” this nerve travels through the mouth, teeth, ears, jaw joints, muscles, and surrounding structures It is responsible for blood flow to the internal two-thirds of the brain.
Dysfunction of the trigeminal nerve is responsible for almost 100% of headaches.
Treatment for your TMD and myofascial pain symptoms is customized entirely to the underlying causes of your TMJ dysfunction. Possible treatments include:
- TENS therapy: Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) sends a small current through the body to reduce pain response in the nerves
- DNA Appliance therapy: Improves internal structures by modifying the body’s DNA
- Trigger point injections: Targeted injections to sensitive areas in the muscles to relieve pain
- Sphenopalatine ganglion blocks: Dr. Shapira teaches patients how to self-administer treatment so they can stop headaches before they begin
- Stretch and spray blocks: Use of vapocoline spray to “turn off” referred pain
Dr. Shapira puts his heart and soul into his work, dedicating himself fully to your pain relief. He will make every effort to help you find the optimal treatment options to reduce headaches, alleviate TMJ pain, and improve your quality of life.
Contact Think Better Life Today
Patients from across the United States and even all over the world travel to Think Better Life so they can benefit from Dr. Shapira’s experience, training, and care. TMJ dysfunction is often a major part of chronic, complex headaches, and Dr. Shapira has the skill and knowledge to provide individualized treatment.
Schedule your comprehensive evaluation with Dr. Shapira today by calling 1-847-533-8313. Think Better Life serves patients throughout the Chicago area, nationwide, and internationally.