The temporomandibular joint connects your lower jaw to the rest of your body. When there is a malfunction of this joint it is called TMJ disorder. There are multiple causes. It can be precipitated by a traumatic injury. Missing teeth can cause surrounding teeth to drift, creating bite discrepancies that lead to these problems. Poorly done dental work, or any dysfunctional alignment of the teeth can cause it. It can also be caused by arthritic deterioration of the joint.
What Is a TMJ Dentist?
There is actually not a recognized specialty in dentistry for TMJ treatment, so it wouldn’t be accurate to call anyone a TMJ dentist. But some people use that term, and it does require extra training beyond dental school to successfully treat this disorder.
Dr. Burgess has been so successful in treating TMJ disorders, that other dentists recognize his expertise and refer to him their difficult TMJ cases. He’s pursued extensive additional training in this area, having done extensive post-graduate work from several of the recognized TMJ experts in the country. He took several courses from Dr. John Witzig, the head of the TMJ Institute of America. Dentistry Today named Dr. Witzig the Leader in Orthodontic Continuing education in the United States and Canada. The American Association of Functional Orthodontics named him Clinician of the Year in 1984 and 2001 and The Father of Modern Day Functional Orthodontic Treatment in 2001.
In addition to that training, Dr. Burgess has taken a number of courses from Dr. Peter Dawson (The Dawson Academy), Dr. Mark Piper, who is credited with the development of three major methods for the diagnosis and treatment of TMJ derangements, and Dr. John Kois, whose Kois Center offers a comprehensive nine-course curriculum involving aesthetic, occlusion, and restorative dentistry. Few dentists are as qualified as Dr. Burgess in treating TMJ pain.
What causes TMJ Pain?
The temporomandibular joint has the unique function of not only being able to slide back and forth, but is capable of hinge motion as well. The joint itself could be the source of discomfort when arthritis is involved, but often the real problems are in the surrounding muscles, where there can be intense pain and spasms.
Common symptoms for TMJ dysfunction can include some or all of the following:
- Excessive grinding of the teeth or clenching
- Wearing down of the teeth
- Limited range in opening the mouth
- Occasional inability to completely close the mouth
- A deviation of the jaw to one side when opened
- Pain in the chewing muscles
- Persistent, chronic headaches
- Ear aches
- Noises in the joint
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Treating TMJ Disorder
The first step in treatment is diagnosis, and this isn’t simple. Remember that this joint is very complex, and there are multiple causes to this condition. This is where Dr. Burgess’s advanced training comes into play. Using diagnostic skills and tests, including TMJ Doppler Auscultation. This non-invasive diagnostic tool accurately reveals the status of the condyle-disc assembly, as well as any other pathologies, including perforations, joint space adhesions, inflammation in the retrodiscal tissues, and any displaced discs that may be in a subluxed position due to ankylosis. He has other sophisticated diagnostic equipment, also, and all of this will help Dr. Burgess find out exactly what is wrong, at which point he will be able to proceed with a course of treatment that will work for you.
Treatment can involve a wide variety of techniques. The first step is always to relieve the pain as quickly as possible. This can be done with moist heat, medications, orthotics, or other techniques. Once that is accomplished, we can then attempt a permanent solution.
Sometimes all that may be needed could be the temporary wearing of an orthotic on your teeth to help guide a displaced disc back into its correct position. Bite adjustments (called equilibrations) may be required. In more severe cases, your bite may need to be completely rebuilt with a full-mouth reconstruction. Sometimes surgery on your jaw joint may be needed.
Here are what a couple of his patients have to say:
Fifteen years of debilitating migraines were cured by Dr. Burgess. True! A routine panoramic x-ray discovered that my jawline was shaped like an R instead of the U we all expect to have. Dr. Burgess explained that I had TMJ and outlined a plan to move my jaw back into position—without surgery. The day I went to get my first mouthpiece, I had one of my migraines. I was not looking forward to getting this new appliance at all. He wrapped my jaw in moist, warm towels and turned off the lights so we could try and calm the pain to a level that he could insert the mouthpiece. In a few minutes, he was able to place it in my mouth and make the final adjustments. He again put some moist, warm towels around my jaw, so my jaw could adjust to the new appliance. The next time he checked on me, the migraine was gone. This whole process probably took 15 minutes. That was the beginning of my road to recovery. It has been several years now, and I’m happy to say that I no longer have migraine headaches—ever. And my jawline is back to being shaped like a U. If you suffer from migraines and your doctors can find nothing to help you, I highly recommend getting checked for TMJ by Dr. Burgess. If TMJ is your problem, getting it fixed could give you your life back like it did for me. ~Cheryl Green
Due to a traumatic injury, I have had TMJ pain and eating problems for most of my life. Thanks to Dr. Burgess’ patience and skill in adjusting my bite, I now have much less pain and enjoy a better quality of life. Dr. Burgess rocks! ~Judi Logan