TMJ 101 (Podcast)
Dr. Nammy Patel from Green Dentistry in San Francisco talks with John Maher about TMJ. She explains the symptoms of TMJ including tooth pain, receding gums, and ringing in the ear. Then, she compares traditional and holistic TMJ treatment methods.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Dr. Nammy Patel, founder of Green Dentistry in San Francisco, California. Helping patients recognize the vital connection between dental health, and whole body health. And author of the best selling book, Age With Style: Guide To A Youthful Smile & Healthy Living. Today, our topic is TMJ. Welcome, Dr. Nammy.
Dr. Nammy Patel: Hi, John. Thank you for having me.
What Is TMJ? What Are Its Symptoms?
John: Sure. So Dr. Nammy, what is the temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, and its symptoms?
Dr. Nammy: Well, the TMJ is actually a jaw joint and when we talk about TMJ disorder, it actually includes the jaw joint, the muscles and the ligaments that surround it. For example, when we talk about somebody who has TMJ issues, they would probably have headaches because the muscles are connected to the jaw joint. Otherwise, they have ringing in the ears. There’s ligaments that surround the actual TMJ. And when it compresses on the nerve, that would be something we would call TMJ as well, or TMJ disorder.
How Does TMJ Affect Whole Body Health?
John: Okay. And how does TMJ affect whole body health?
Dr. Nammy: Well, one of the things with TMJ is that when somebody has a lot of bone rubbing against bone or a lot of headaches… well, where the jaw joint is being overworked, it actually causes inflammation. One of the things we find is that patients with TMJ often have a compromised immune system. Not everyone, but we do find that people who have chronic stress, tend to clench and grind their teeth, and then run out their TMJ. And they have a lot of inflammation.
The stress is really, really one of the main factors that cause a lot of the issues. And it actually causes a lot of immune disorders and gut issues and any disease in our body pretty much is caused by inflammation. Anytime we have an increased amount of cortisol or an increased amount of toxins in our body, it really compromises our immune system and makes it work super, extra hard.
How Do You Know If You Have TMJ?
John: How do I know if I have TMJ issues? Are there signs that I should be watching out for? Do I wake up in the morning with pain in my jaw or things like that? Are there other things that I should be looking for?
Dr. Nammy: The most common ones that we find is that patients with TMJ will complain about their teeth being sore, or sometimes gum recession. Or they’ll also complain about jaw tenderness. A lot of times you can just look at your face, actually. If you look at your face and you see these cheek muscles, they’re overgrown. You’ll see a lot of these. Sometimes you’ll see somebody and you can see their cheek muscle is overgrown because from that constant clenching, grinding, that muscle is overworked. So it becomes hypertrophic and it becomes bigger. And you can actually just see it on your face. That’s number one.
The second thing I would say is if you have TMJ issues, you will notice it, because you’ll hear a click or a pop in your jaw. You’ll have a hard time opening your jaw. For example, when you’re trying to bite a sandwich or something like that. Or you’ll wake up with lock jaw, that’s very common as well. And sometimes patients have ringing in the ears, vertigo. All of these things are related to the TMJ.
What Should You Do If You Have TMJ Symptoms?
John: If I suspect that I have a problem with this, should I see my doctor? Or should I go to my dentist for TMJ issues?
Dr. Nammy: For TMJ issues, I highly recommend you see a dentist. And not even just any dentist, a dentist who specializes in TMJ. The main reason for that is TMJ is very complicated and very difficult to understand. And unless you are really working with somebody who really knows TMJ symptoms. For example, if somebody has TMJ problems, it can actually cause pain like it’s a root canal. That throbby pain in a tooth.
And if you go to a regular dentist, they’ll just go ahead and do a root canal on it versus really realizing that it’s actually a TMJ issue. That’s the reason I would say that if you have any TMJ concerns, seek out a TMJ specialist. Someone who is highly qualified and understands this and knows how to treat the TMJ disorder.
Traditional Vs. Holistic TMJ Treatment
John: Are there traditional ways of treating TMJ? And if so, what are the holistic ways of treating TMJ? That might be a little bit different?
Dr. Nammy: The first thing holistically, from a TMJ perspective is lifestyle changes. What is contributing to causing so much stress and so much grinding? That’s number one. Acupressure is really fantastic as well. So I highly recommend that to a lot of my patients.
Also, the breathing exercises we talked about. Breathing is the key, getting our bodies to relax. There’s also something that I really love, which is called a vagus nerve massage. And we can actually massage areas at different points in order to relax our vagus nerve. And our vagus nerve goes throughout the body and puts us in that rest and digest phase, which is really fantastic for the TMJ.
How Does TMJ Affect Teeth and Gums?
John: And you mentioned that one of the symptoms of TMJ is actually gum recessions. How does TMJ affect your teeth and your gum?
Dr. Nammy: Right. So what happens with TMJ is if you’re clenching and grinding, a lot of the forces go on the teeth. The first thing happens that when there’s a lot of forces on the teeth, that gum tissue will first recede. And after it’s receded, the second thing that will happen is because if this is your tooth, the thinnest part of the tooth is the neck here, so it’ll break off. And so we find a lot of those lesions on TMJ patients as well.
Contact Green Dentistry for Help With TMJ Today
John: Okay. All right. Well, that’s really great information, Dr. Nammy. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Dr. Nammy: You’re welcome.
John: And for more information about Green Dentistry, visit the website at sfgreendentist.com or call (415) 433-0119.