When a Toothache Is Not Really a Toothache
What do you do when you’re suffering from a toothache? For most of us, we call our dentist-right? Most tooth pain is caused by tooth decay, a cracked tooth, or impacted wisdom teeth. However, sometimes tooth pain is not related to these obvious problems. Dental pain can be associated with the muscles, ligaments and the hinges associated with our teeth, known as the Temporomandibular Joint or TMJ. When the TMJ works in harmony, it allows us to chew, talk and smile. When the TMJ is not in harmony it can cause pain or Tempromandilbular Muscle Disorder (TMD). Sometimes tooth pain can be confused with TMJ pain, also known as referred pain.
Symptoms can include
- Limited opening
- Pain in the ear, neck or TMJ
- Clenching or grinding
- Clicking or popping in the jaw joint
- Restless sleeping
- Itchiness or ringing in the ears
Do you have any symptoms?
If you or someone you know suffers, you might wonder why this has happened. Like hips and knees that can wear out over time, the chewing system can wear out too, but that’s not always the case. Trauma to the head at a young age can interrupt the growth plate and stop the condyle from fully developing and or injure the ligaments that hold the disk in place. These injuries can lead to the disk being puller too far forward, backward or actually wear a hole in the pad—leading to noise, pain, abnormal tooth wear, or deficient or asymmetrical jaw growth. Sometimes the symptoms are much subtler.
Technology over the last 15 years has allowed us to see and diagnose the TMJ’s with accuracy that avoids exploratory or unnecessary surgery. Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT) 3-D x-ray imaging shows hard tissues like bone and teeth, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) images soft tissues, ligament and cartilage allowing me to see what’s going on inside these complex areas during chewing and opening. Diagnosing starts with a thorough exam and collection of data. Models, photos, CBCT scan as well an MRI all help me to identify problems and give you answers to your TMJ pain.
“With the technology of an MRI and CBCT imaging, I can tell exactly where the disk sits in the TMJ and how it is impacted during chewing and opening” Dr. Michael P. Sharp
Once the data is collected, I will sit down and show you the findings and give you treatment recommendations. Options can include:
- Bite splint therapy
- Referral to other specialists (Neurologist, ENT,Sleep Doctor, Orthodontist, Oral Surgeon, Periodontist)
- Chiropractic manipulation to re-align the neck