The American Dental Association has not recognized TMJ treatment and the management of head and neck pain as a specialty. As a result there are many dentists, chiropractors, massage therapist, physician who will try to render TMD treatment to solve head and neck pain and dysfunction with varying degrees of success. Many patients that I see have been to several other practitioners prior to finding my office. Quite often the therapy has either not worked or the patient had limited success before the pain returned. Many times it is because the true source of the pain and/or dysfunction has not been identified.
Many treatments are focused solely on the pain management and as a result never get to the source of the problem. Therapies such a massage, chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture or needle point therapy, splints (mouth guards), bite adjustments, nerve block injection and physical therapy all have their place and can relieve patients temporarily of pain. Diagnosis of the source of the pain should be the goal of the clinician, because unless you know what is causing the pain, then you are only guessing on how to solve the problem.
Even though head and neck pain is often multifactorial, the majority of patients I see are suffering from myofascial (muscle) pain. This is manifested as jaw pain. These patients usually experience tightness in the muscles of the face and neck, headaches, limited ability to open their mouth or a locking of their jaw, pain on chewing and facial pain. Many times this will be in conjunction with a popping jaw. Quite often proper splint therapy can relieve the muscle symptoms, however, many patients I see have been given a splint (mouth guard) that is made of the wrong material, or has never been fitted properly for the patient and is therefore too uncomfortable to wear for any extend time. The patients get frustrated with this and are reluctant to try a properly fitting splint.
I customize every splint I make for my patients and provide them with 4 months of follow up therapy to insure that the appliance does what it is designed to do and to get my patients feeling better.