There have been volumes written on the topic of headaches, but very little has been said about the relationship between headaches, neck and ear pain, and Tempromandibular Joint (TMJ) dysfunction syndrome. Books for the general public gloss over or ignore TMJ dysfunction, although research has proven that it causes a high percentage of tension type headache pain and is very damaging to the teeth and jaws.
The diagnosis and treatment for TMJ dysfunction is relatively straightforward for a doctor who is specifically trained to recognize and treat the dysfunction. Once the problem is accurately diagnosed, the treatment is most often simple and successful. Since treating TMJ dysfunction is not a standard part of dental or medical school, you cannot assume that every doctor can detect and treat this problem. In other words, a dental school degree does not mean that you will be properly treated. To discover if TMJ dysfunction is the cause of some or all of your pain, you must find a dentist who has training and has successfully treated many TMJ dysfunction cases. Dr. Gatti’s training began at the L.D. Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, Florida which teaches graduate courses to dentists in how to treat TMJ-related problems. Since completing their continuum Dr. Gatti has taken numerous courses, including lecture, dissection, and hands on training.
Often when treating TMJ problems we will use “bite splints” to provide an indirect method of altering the occlusion or bite until the proper jaw position can be determined and confirmed. The main reason for the splint is to control the upper jaw to lower jaw relationship. There are secondary benefits that result as well. For example, the splint can help stabilize weak teeth, distribute bite forces and reduce wear. The bite splint is rarely the final treatment, however it is an excellent diagnostic and treatment appliance. Final treatment may involve an occlusal adjustment or equilibration. In this process the uneven spots on the teeth are reshaped until they all meet evenly. This is indicated in the majority of cases where there is a small to moderate bite discrepancy. For more severe discrepancies, bite reconstruction, orthodontics, or jaw surgery may be indicated. In any case the accurate diagnosis and relief of pain is imperative before definitive treatment is accomplished.