Dentists regularly deal with people who gag uncontrollably when they take dental x-rays, never mind attempt to wear in-the-mouth dental appliances. So what do you do when your gag reflex is ultra-strong and you have a temporomandibular joint disorder like TMJ and need to wear a corrective dental appliance? Is there a viable alternative to traditional TMJ care?
Why would you need more aggressive TMJ treatment? Doesn't it eventually just go away?
TMJ is characterized by inflammatory pain in the joint and muscles that connect your lower jaw (the mandible) to the temporal bone located on the side of your head just in front of your ear. You can feel the joint move if you place your fingers on that bone. Open your mouth. Feel it move? Sometimes you'll hear a click when you open and close your mouth. TMJ pain can also be associated with teeth grinding (bruxism) and with ear and headaches, along with back and neck pain. TMJ is more prevalent in women than men. In fact, it is thought that over 10 million Americans suffer from TMJ, making it a very common, but often very painful, disorder.
Your dentist can treat you for pain that doesn't go away with time or if your jaw won't open very wide or if it locks up on you. This may be a sign that your TMJ may be associated with arthritis or other joint deterioration requiring more aggressive treatment. Your dentist may recommend wearing a retainer or other realignment appliance.
If you can't stand the idea of wearing a TMJ appliance in your mouth—or you just physically cannot use one without gagging—there are some holistic alternatives that your dentist may recommend, such as chiropractic care. Massage therapy through your chiropractor also may be an option.
What can a chiropractor do to relieve the pain of TMJ?
Subtle chiropractic care, in conjunction with your dentist, can alleviate long-term pain associated with TMJ. Documented cases of dental and chiropractic co-management are beginning to realize that mandibular manipulation, along with back and neck adjustments, can significantly decrease overall TMJ pain over time. Usually a couple times a week for three weeks or so has been enough to bring pain levels to near zero.
TMJ is a complex disorder. Many people suffer for years without getting relief because they can't wear corrective dental appliances or because their dentist hasn't explored chiropractic co-management of symptoms. Ask your dentist or chiropractor what kind of care is right for you.