Category Archives: TMJ Dentist

tmj and sleep apnea

A friend of mine told me I should talk to a TMJ dentist because I’ve been struggling with sleep apnea. I’m not sure how reliable the source is, but thinking back, I really think my jaw problems and sleep apnea did start around the same time.

Back then, I was told to get a nightguard. I got one and I wore it for a while, but I don’t remember there being any difference and I found it cumbersome to sleep with, so I stopped using it and don’t remember what I did with it. I never got diagnosed with sleep apnea officially—my ex said I had it and that I snored. I figured if the fix for that was a full-on mask, there was no point in doing the sleep study since I couldn’t even tolerate the night guard. But, now I’m wondering if I should make my way back into the TMJ dentist again, just to see if I can have a new guard made that will address both. How viable is this?

Thank you,

Oscar

Dear Oscar,

You’re asking some great questions and are sort of on the right track. Let’s break things down a bit.

Sleep Apnea Involves Breaks of Breathing While You Sleep

There are three main forms of sleep apnea.

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea: With obstructive sleep apnea, the muscles of the throat relax and block airways. It’s more common with people who carry extra weight, have allergies, take certain medications, and those who drink alcohol, among other things.
  • Central Sleep Apnea: With central sleep apnea, the brain doesn’t send the right signals to the muscles which control breathing.
  • Complex Sleep Apnea: When someone has both obstructive and central sleep apnea, it’s referred to as complex sleep apnea.

All Forms of Sleep Apnea Must Be Treated

When you wake up repeatedly through the night, your body has trouble making it through the various sleep cycles, so you never get a full night of sleep, no matter how many hours you spend in bed. That can lead to things like being grouchy, groggy, tired, and listless. In severe cases, sleep deprivation produces symptoms that are worse than being drunk, which makes it unsafe to drive and engage in a number of activities.

TMJ Dentists Help with Jaw Disorders

Most people refer to the concept of jaw issues as “TMJ,” but the acronym is short for temporomandibular joint, which is your jaw joint. When something’s wrong with it, it’s referred to as a temporomandibular joint disorder or temporomandibular disorder (TMD).

TMD Has Many Known Causes

In most cases, it’s the muscles which support the joint that become problematic. For example, a traumatic injury, like from a car accident, can cause TMD. Grinding, clenching, stress, and arthritis can all result in TMD too.

All Forms of TMD Must Be Treated

People who don’t treat TMD wind up with pain and tenderness, popping and clicking sounds as they open and close their mouths, difficulty opening, trouble chewing, and so forth. When grinding and clenching are involved, teeth issues also set in. Teeth may wear down or become loose. Dental work may wear out or break. The symptoms become worse over time if nothing is done.

If Malalignment is Contributing to Your Sleep Apnea, a TMJ Dentist Can Help

Research shows a huge correlation between sleep apnea and TMD. People who have one usually have the other. That’s not surprising, because if your jaw is not aligned properly, it will cause undue stress to your temporomandibular joint and the muscles which support it, plus cause your tongue to lay in an unnatural way. A doctor who performs a physical exam and takes x-rays may be able to give you a definitive answer, but ultimately, you need treatment for both. Go visit the TMJ dentist for treatment and see if that helps your sleep apnea. If not, then you’ll still want to follow through with your sleep apnea treatment.

This blog is sponsored by New Orleans Dentist Dr. Duane DeLaune.

Crown hurts

I don’t know what’s going on. My crown hurts whenever I bite. It feels like the crown is bigger than the teeth next to it. I’m thinking bigger like taller. Could this be why it’s hurting. My dentist said it’s just a matter of me getting used to it but it has been about two months and it still hurts. Will I get used to it or is something else going on?

Kevin

Dear Kevin,

A woman holding her jaw from TMJ pain

When a crown is done properly, you shouldn’t even notice it is there. Your dentist saying, “You’ll get used to it.” is generally dental speak for “I’m not sure how to fix this.”

Normally, a basic step would be for a dentist to check that the crown isn’t seated to high. To do that, they’d have you bite on registration paper. This leaves marks where the crown hits prematurely. They will grind down those places.

I’m going on the assumption your dentist has already done this. If he hasn’t, you should definitely get a new dentist. If he has done this, there is something more challenging wrong and it’s out of his depth so he’s just saying you’ll “get used to it”.

This Can Lead to TMJ Disorder

If you don’t get this resolved, there is a possibility you will develop TMJ disorder.

I don’t think I’m confident your current dentist can fix this. Because of that, I’d like you to see a dentist who has experience with TMJ. They can properly place your crown so that you don’t have to worry about developing TMJ.

Making the Most of a Bad Situation

I’m a big believer in finding the good in a tough situation. If it turns out your crown was made improperly for your bite in a way which can be fixed, two good things can result.

First, you’ll be able to get a refund from your first dentist which will help you pay to get it done right. Second, this is a chance to improve your smile.

The color your crown is made is permanent. If you’re going to have it redone, I’d suggest getting your teeth whitened, so your second crown can be made to match a much lighter color to match your new, more youthful looking smile.

This blog is brought to you by New Orleans Dentist Dr. Duane Delaune.

Custom mouthpiece for grinding because of meds?

My dentist is trying to convince me to get this custom-fitted device to sleep with. He says I’m grinding my teeth because of the medicine I take. First, wouldn’t I know if I happened to be grinding my teeth and second, can medicines really make you do that? Does it even matter?

Clark

Dear Clark,

custom-fitted trays
Custome-fitted mouthpiece’s will protect your teeth.

I promise your dentist isn’t trying to pull one over on you. Everything he said is based in fact. Most patients doen’t realize they are grinding their teeth, because it happens at night while they’re sleeping.

The Consequences of Grinding and Clenching

Griding and clenching your teeth is known as bruxism. When you do that habitually, whether intentionally or not, your teeth begin to wear down. In some cases, I’ve seen them worn down to nubs and the patient had to have all their teeth crowned. This is known as a full-mouth reconstruction and is very costly.

In addition to wearing down the teeth, you can also end up chipping or even cracking them . Cracked teeth will also have to be crowned in order to save them.

A nightguard protects your teeth from the force of these motions. Even though you likely won’t be able to stop doing them, your teeth won’t bear the consequences.

Be on the Lookout for TMJ Disorder

With constant motion of your jaw in grinding, you’re in danger of another kind of problem. You could wear down your temporomandibular joint, leading to TMJ disorder.

Here are some symptoms to look out for:

  • Jaw Pain
  • Clicking in the Jaw
  • Migraines, especially in the morning

If any of these pick up, you’ll want to see a dentist who has some special training in TMJ.

This blog is brought to you by New Orleans Dentist Dr. Duane Delaune.

Is It TMJ or an Ear Infection?

Does your ear hurt and feel full and you think it might be related to TMJ? How can you determine the real cause of your symptoms?

What Is TMJ?

TMJ has is an acronym that is commonly used to describe dysfunction with the temporomandibular joint, which connects your lower jaw (mandible) to the bone on the side of your head (temporal).

close up of temporomadibular joint
TMJ disorder can cause ear pain

There are many signs and symptoms associated with TMJ. And you don’t have to experience them all to have a TMJ disorder. You might be experiencing one or more of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Pain in or around your ear
  • Chronic headaches
  • Chronic earaches
  • Tinnitus (ringing in your ears)
  • Chronic neck pain
  • Difficulty opening and closing your mouth
  • Clicking or popping noises when you open your mouth
  • Jaw clenching
  • Jaw pain or soreness that is worse in the morning or late afternoon
  • Jaw pain when you chew, bite or yawn
  • Tender jaw muscles
  • Sensitivity in your teeth
  • Bruxism (grinding your teeth)

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of an Ear Infection?

Although you may not be experiencing all of them, common signs and symptoms of an ear infection in adults include:

  • Ear pain
  • Fluid draining from the ear
  • Impaired hearing
  • Fullness in the ear
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • In severe cases, a stiff neck and/or fever

If you think you have TMJ, schedule an appointment with a dentist who has advanced training in the disorder. He or she will examine your teeth, jaw, and bite to make the determination.

How Will It Be Treated?

  • If you have TMJ, a customized mouthguard will be recommended for you to wear while you sleep. It will relax your jaw and prevent bruxism, which is often related to TMJ.
  • Relaxation and jaw exercises might be recommended to help relax the muscles.
  • It can also help to alternately apply hot and cold packs to the side of your face where the muscles are sore.

What If Your Symptoms Don’t Match TMJ?

Even if you don’t think you have TMJ, chronic ear pain should not be ignored. An untreated infection can spread and permanently affect your hearing and balance. You should schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor. If necessary he or she will refer you to a specialist.

This post is sponsored by Dr. Duane Delaune of Delaune Dental in New Orleans.

Do I Have tmj or tmd?

I’m a little confused about which problem I have. I’ve been having problems with severe headaches and pain in my jaw. Someone said they think I have TMJ . I went home to look that up and there seems to be two things. One is called TMJ and one is called TMD. How do I know which one I have?

Carol

Dear Carol,

close up of temporomadibular joint

There’s a good reason you are confused about this. Even though they have two different technical meanings, people (especially patients) use them synonymously.

TMJ refers to the temporomadibular joint. I’ve placed a picture of it above so you can see a close up of it. TMD refers to the disorder of the temporomandibular joint.

Generally, when people say TMJ they mean TMJ disorder (or TMD).

If You Have TMJ Disorder

The symptoms you’ve described above do relate to TMJ Disorder.
There are many possible reasons for developing jaw problems. Your next step would be to see a dentist with expertise in TMJ problems, so he can properly diagnose the cause.

You want a dentist who’ has invested in significant post-doctoral training in TMJ diagnosis and treatment. For instance, Dr. Delaune has done extensive training with the world renown Dawson Academy.

There is not a recognized TMJ Specialty so any general dentist can call themselves a TMJ dentist. That makes it especially important you know that the dentist you’re dealing with is actually qualified.

Treatments vary depending on the cause. It can range from a simple orthotic device up to a full-mouth reconstruction. Good dentists start with the most conservative treatment except for the most rare, devastating cases.

I hope this helps. This blog is brought to you by New Orleans Dentist Dr. Duane Delaune.

My Husband Says My Migraines are From TMJ

I take medicine for migraines every day. My husband, who is not a big believer in medications, thinks I’m probably getting the migraines from TMJ disorder and the medicine is not necessary. How do I know if he’s right?

Adeline

Dear Adeline,

close up of temporomadibular joint

Migraines can be the result of TMJ disorder, but there are normally other signs which accompany it. Here are some of the more common symptoms.

  • Painful jaw muscles
  • Popping or clicking of jaw joints
  • Worn teeth
  • Ear pain

There are others as well, but these are some generalized indicators. Though a self-diagnosis will do you little good. Your best bet is to see a dentist who treats TMJ. They can give you a thorough exam and narrow down the cause of your particular TMJ.

For instance, worn teeth are usually a sign you grind or clench your teeth. Not only can this lead to TMJ, but it also wears your teeth down to nubs, requiring them to need dental crowns in order to function properly. Yet, a simple night guard worn at night can completely protect your teeth and ease up the pressure to your jaw.

In other cases, it’s a matter of your bite being thrown off by poor alignment. There can be several solutions for this depending on the severity of the problem.

Who Should Treat Your TMJ?

There isn’t a recognized specialty in TMJ, therefore any dentist can technically claim to treat it. However, the way the muscles, joints, and teeth line up is a complicated matter and requires some post-doctoral training in order to be effective. It’s imperative you see a dentist who’s invested time in learning how to properly treat it at a reputable institution.

Here are some well-qualified places a dentist may go to get trained in TMJ Disorder:

  • The Kois Center
  • The Pankey Institute
  • Dawson Academy
  • Las Vegas Institute of Advanced Dental Studies

Any of these places offers extensive instruction on the diagnosis and treatment of TMJ Disorder. You should be in safe hands with a dentist who’s studied at one of them.

This blog is brought to you by New Orleans Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Duane Delaune.

Is Jaw Pain Diet Related?

I have pretty severe jaw pain, especially in the mornings. My sister said it’s my diet and I need to eat only whole foods. I switched to a whole foods diet. I’ve been on it a few weeks and haven’t had any relief. Do I need to give it more time? I can’t decide if this is diet related or dental related?

Carla T. – Georgia

Carla,

There are some conditions that are thought to be diet related and while, if you eat something that aggravated your jaw it can cause pain, diet will not cause the type of pain you’re describing.

Because it’s stronger in the morning, and I suspect you probably get morning headaches as well. I’d look into night grinding and TMJ.

See a dentist who’s received significant training in TMJ diagnosis and treatment. It’s not a recognized specialty, so a general dentist will have to put forth specific effort to receive the training. Don’t be shy about asking them where they studied TMJ. We’re not talking about where they studied in dental school. This needs to be post-graduate training. For instance, Dr. Delaune, studied at the Dawson Academy.

If it turns out that you’re grinding your teeth at night, that would explain your jaw pain. A simple night guard should solve the problem.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Duane Delaune.

Why Is My Dentist Sending Me Somewhere Else for My TMJ?

My dentist thinks I have TMJ, but he wants to send me somewhere else for treatment.  I thought all dentists treated TMJ.

Michelle – Ohio

Michelle,

While all dentists can treat TMJ, some have more training in treating TMJ than others. It sounds like your dentist feels like you would get better care with another dentist in this case. What that tells me is you have a dentist who really wants to be certain you get the best care possible. That’s something to be lauded.

If your dentist didn’t recommend a specific TMJ dentist, I’ll give you a couple of things to look for. You want a dentist who’s had post-graduate training in TMJ.

Some great training to look for is Dawson Academy, the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies (LVI),  Spear, or the Kois Center. There are others too, but these are among the top.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Duane Delaune.

Do I Need to Get a Second Opinion from a TMJ Dentist?

I went through about two years of braces when I was a teen and I stuck with it. I even wore the retainer like I was supposed to for years. Now my dentist says my bite isn’t right. He wants me to get crowns on all my teeth to fix it. In all fairness, I’ve already had a couple of cavities, and I think we got on this because I said I wanted my teeth whiter, but getting crowns everywhere seems excessive to me. Should I get a second opinion from a TMJ dentist about my bite,  or is what he’s telling me on the up and up?

Lance

Dear Lance,

A second opinion from someone with significant training in TMJ dentistry  would be a good idea. There’s a whole lot going on here and it’s unclear why your dentist made the recommendation he did.

TMJ problems are serious, and they do need correction, but based on what you’ve documented here, I’ve seen no indication of you haven’t indicated that you have any TMJ symptoms. Those would include jaw pain, popping, grinding, clicking, or generalized mouth pain, and migraines. These symptoms would make me suspect TMJ.

As for having the crowns done, this is one way to go about correcting bite issues, but there are also less invasive and less expensive ways to go about doing it, too.

Wanting whiter teeth is no excuse to jump in and get crowns either. Unless you’ve had work done on your front teeth, you can just have teeth whitening done, for a fraction of the cost and without affecting healthy tooth structure. Even if you do already have dental work on those teeth, you can have it replaced after whitening so it all matches.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Duane Delaune.