TMJ Disorders Diagnosis
How to Diagnose TMJ Disorders
Tembomandibular disorders (TMDs) are difficult to diagnose. As a matter of fact, your physician or dentist will likely spend much of your diagnosis time trying to rule out TMD—there isn't one test or exam that can definitively diagnose tembomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. With its phantom tendencies, TMJ is simply challenging to diagnose—and even harder to treat.
TMDs have many symptoms in common with ear infections, facial nerve pain, headaches, tooth and gum diseases, tumors, and neck pain. Furthermore, it is common to have a TMD in addition to one of these mimicking conditions. This vagueness contributes to the difficulty of diagnosis, and it often takes a few visits to your physician or dentist to get it figured out.
Physician or Dentist for TMJ?
Your primary care physician can work with you on your TMJ diagnosis. However, a dentist who specializes in TMJ may be your better option. Ask your regular dentist to refer you to a TMJ specialist. You can also call around or use the Internet to search for one of these specially-trained dentists.
Some dentists consider themselves TMJ specialists, but they may not have the training you should require. When you call a potential TMJ specialist ask the staff, "What specific TMJ training, beyond dental school, has the doctor received?"
You want to find a dentist with special education and training in TMJ/facial pain. You should also avoid making an appointment with a dentist who has just "seen a lot of it" in his or her practice.
When you find a dentist who completed extensive training in TMJ disorders, make an appointment. You are likely to get a better diagnosis, leading to faster treatments. You may even save money if you need fewer visits and less trial and error to find the best treatment.
The TMJ Diagnostic Exam
Your exam will start with several questions about your medical history, including other health conditions, recent injuries, and medications.
Your physician or dentist will examine your jaw, face, neck, ears, mouth, and throat. You may be surprised at all of the ways your doctor asks you to open, bite, stretch, yawn, and otherwise move your face, neck, and jaw around.
Your physician or dentist will also take x-rays, and may eventually refer you for a CT or MRI scan.
During the TMJ diagnosis process, the physician or dentist is examining the 5 pairs of muscles that control your jaw. Besides opening and closing your mouth, they also control side-to-side, forward, and backward jaw motion.
Your physician or dentist will inspect the discs that connect your jaw bone to your skull—the discs that help cushion the movement of your jaw. Additionally, the physician or dentist will look at the ligaments, bones, and muscles that comprise your TMJ, as well as evaluating numerous structures and tissues in your face, head, and neck.
Your physician or dentist is likely trying to rule out other diagnoses before diagnosing TMJ, because TMJ is somewhat difficult to diagnosis. With a definitive diagnosis, though, you can move into the treatment.