In this podcast, Dr. Nammy Patel from Green Dentistry talks with John Maher about TMJ and TMD. She explains how issues with your temporomandibular joint can lead to temporomandibular disorder. disorder. Then, she discusses the connection with your overall health.
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 the author of the best selling books, “Age with Style, Guide to a Youthful Smile” and “Healthy Living and Total Wellness: Understanding the Link Between your Teeth and your Health”. Today, our topic is TMJ and TMD in dentistry. Welcome, Dr. Nammy.
Dr. Nammy Patel: Hi, John. Thank you for having me.
What Is TMJ or the Temporomandibular Joint?
John: Sure. Dr. Nammy, what is the TMJ or temporomandibular joint?
Dr. Nammy: So the temporomandibular joint is the joint of your lower mandible or your lower jaw where it attaches to the head, and the space where it attaches to the head is called the temporomandibular joint. It is comprised of bones and also a disc, like your knee. You have a knee disc in between two bones. So the joint actually has two bones and there’s a disc in the middle, which allows you to open and close your mouth. So that entire apparatus is called the temporomandibular joint.
Now, we want the temporomandibular joint to work really well because we use our mouths all the time. For example, I’m using it to speak right now, we use it to smile, we use it to chew, to be able to eat our food. We use our jaws when we’re kissing someone. So our mouths are really important and our jaw joint is really important and its ability to function is really important, and we want it to be comfortable and we need it at all times pretty much.
What Is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or TMD?
John: And what is a temporomandibular joint disorder or what’s sometimes referred to as TMD?
Dr. Nammy: So TMD is temporomandibular disorder. What that means is the jaw joint is not functioning properly, and there are many reasons for that. A lot of times, just like people have if they run too much, they’ll get knee joint issues. The knee joint, the disc will wear out, or the ligaments will get pulled, or something along those lines.
The same analogy kind of applies to the TMJ, and TMD is basically what happened, the disorder. Sometimes there’s a ligament that’s pulled, sometimes a disc is overused and it causes pain. Sometimes there’s clicks and pops that occur, and over time it causes lockjaw. These are all things we cluster as temporomandibular joint disorder.
Dental Treatments for TMD
John: Okay. And what are some dental treatments for this temporomandibular joint disorder?
Dr. Nammy: There’s quite a few treatments. There are exercises that patients can do first and foremost. There are lasers we can use to help with making sure that there is… We can lower the inflammation of the jaw joint. There’s also appliances we can use to help heal the TMJ, like what we do with knee pain. There are apparatuses that we can utilize and wear to help stabilize the temporomandibular joint so there’s no disorder or there’s no pain associated with it.
There’s also a lot of different modalities. There’s also osteopaths we can utilize. There are basically people who specialize in bones and making sure that the bone to bone connections are in the proper place, and there are really great resources and people who help dentists out in order to help with temporomandibular joint disorders. There’s also craniosacral therapists that are really great who can help make sure that the flow of energy is proper in the entire temporomandibular joint to help prevent disease and dysfunction.
Because what’s really interesting is that our entire head and neck are connected. So the jaw is a hinge, it actually moves, and so it’s connected to the cranial nerves of the brain. It can also cause tension headaches, it can cause pain behind the eyes, a lot of different things. A lot of inflammation also can cause our spine to not be in the proper alignment. So it’s really important that we approach the modality, or the temporomandibular disorder, with a multifactorial solution because most likely it’s not just the TMJ that’s affected. It probably has a secondary component with pain that happens in the head or neck, or it has some sort of an alignment issue or something along those lines as well.
Whole Health Benefits of Treating TMJ
John: So when you get one of these dental treatments, one of these appliances, and then it does its job, what effects do you end up with on your health when you have an effective treatment for TMJ?
Dr. Nammy: The most important thing, when we have an apparatus that heals the TMJ is lowering inflammation, and we want to lower the amount of inflammation that exists in the TMJ because it lowers the amount of inflammation in the entire body.
Mainly because your jaw is connected to the brain, a lot of the cranial nerves exit the brain and are attached to the jaw. So when the jaw is working properly, or the joint is working properly, we reduce the amount of inflammation that the whole body actually has.
Contact Green Dentistry to Talk About TMJ and TMD
John: All right, well that’s really great information, Dr. Nammy. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Dr. Nammy: My pleasure.
John: And for more information about Green Dentistry, visit the website at sfgreendentist.com or call 415-433-0119.