Despite recent improvements in research, TMJ remains something of a mysterious ailment. Because we still know little about the causes, effects, and treatment of TMJ, treatment recommendations really only agree on one thing: treatment should focus on noninvasive, reversible treatments. The goal is to avoid doing harm in the name of trying to help.
The only problem is: what constitutes a reversible TMJ treatment?
The Controversy over Bite Splints
Bite splints are one of the most commonly used TMJ treatments out there, probably the most common treatment after home care. However, some people want to lump bite splints into the category of irreversible treatments.
The truth is that bite splints come in many different types, some of which can be used to stabilize and support the bite, and others of which can be used to change the bite. Recommendations from the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) acknowledge the difference. Many patients are confused, though, and steer away from bite splints altogether. This is a shame, because many people receive great benefits from bite splints.
When Doing Nothing Means Doing Damage
In fact, the main problem with the NIDCR recommendations and those based on them is that they can steer people away from getting treatment for TMJ and related problems. People have been scared into thinking that treatment will hurt them, so they lean on home care and pain medications to try to get by.
What people don’t know is that this might constitute the worst, most irreversible treatment there is. If TMJ has already reached the point where the joint is inflamed and displaced, teeth are being damaged, and bone is being lost, the lack of proper treatment puts people on a course toward major joint damage and permanent dysfunction.
A Consultation Never Hurts
If you are experiencing jaw pain or recurring headaches as a result of TMJ, it’s best to consult with your doctor and a TMJ dentist. If your condition is minor and no treatment is necessary, you will be sent home with proper home care instructions. But if treatment is necessary, the sooner we get started the more likely we are to be able to slow or stop the progression of TMJ.
Don’t wait too long for TMJ treatment. If you suspect you have TMJ, please call (843) 706-2999 for an appointment at Beyond Exceptional Dentistry in the Hilton Head area.