If you are one of more than 70 million Americans who suffers from temporomandibular disorder (TMD), a condition that causes face, jaw and neck pain, relief may be found in a dental procedure called equilibration, according to Jerry Butler, DDS, and Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry. Equilibration involves the selective reshaping of the top surfaces of the teeth to provide normal balance and to stabilize the jaw joint.
The pain associated with TMD is caused when the temporomandibular joint (the joint where the jaw is connected to the head) has been damaged, deteriorated or when the muscles surrounding the joint are malfunctioning, causing an imbalance in the movement of the jaw joint. For instance, TMD can be caused by the impact of an auto accident, an improper bite that causes stress on the chewing muscles or by behaviors associated with stress, such as clenching the jaw or grinding the teeth.
The muscle pain and spasms associated with TMD are often compared to that of a "charley horse" in a runner's leg.
In general, equilibration techniques for the relief of TMD pain and spasms are effective and predictable, and patients like the concept because treatments are painless.
In some cases, equilibration techniques may include the fabrication of a special splint that is worn to reduce stress on the jaw joint, as well as a bite guard worn at night. The dentist may also recommend altering the height of canine teeth that are interfering with natural jaw movements.
Equilibration treatment can include the massaging and working of muscles to lessen the pain. Other equilibration treatment can involve physical therapy, including ultra-sound, muscle relaxation techniques, a stress management program and an exercise rehabilitation program that uses "bite exercises."
"Equilibration is becoming a more mainstream technique to treat TMD pain," said Dr. Butler. "Many dentists now have information and handouts on these techniques. However, it is still important for patients to talk to their dentist about their pain and have a thorough evaluation before beginning any kind of treatment program."