TMJ & Headache Treatment in Birmingham MI

tmj treatmentDr. Sushko effectively treats minor jaw disorders, more commonly known as TMJ. In addition to his training in general and family dentistry, Dr. Sushko also has experience in handling tooth and jaw alignment, having completed advanced dental courses in orthodontics (the study and handling of tooth alignment and problems associated with proper bites) and TMJ. Dr. Sushko works with specialists for any advanced treatments he cannot do.

Select a link to find out more about TMJ

What is TMJ disorder?

The term TMJ is the acronym for "TemporoMandibular Joint". This is the ball and socket joint that allows the lower jaw to open, close and move sideways when chewing and speaking. Everyone has two of them, and they are located about one centimeter in front of the ears.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or TMJ Syndrome, is an umbrella term covering a variety of conditions associated with the inflammation of the Temporomandibular Joint, which connects the lower jaw to the skull. Dysfunction of this joint can cause significant pain and damage.

New Patient Consultation

You can receive a $1.00 Exam & Consultation with Dr. Sushko, which includes examining for teeth grinding, pain in the jaw, and headaches that may stem from bite or alignment problems.

What are the signs and symptoms of TMJ disorder?

tmj graphic

Above: The temporomandibular joint permits your jaw to open and close

  • Sore jaw muscles and joints especially, right after waking up in the morning
  • Clicking and/or popping sounds in the jaw joint when opening and/or closing the mouth
  • Chewing surfaces are flat and/or worn down through the tooth enamelexposing the second, soft and yellow layer of the tooth
  • Incisal edges of teeth are worn and sensitive to cold or tooth brushing
  • Loose or broken teeth, crowns or bridges for no particularly obvious reason
  • Generalized feeling of tooth pain
  • Grinding, clenching or bruxing

Some causes of TMJ disorder

  • Trauma
  • Repetitive unconscious jaw movements called teeth grinding or bruxism
  • Teeth are not aligned properly (i.e. upper and lower teeth do not fit together and contact in the proper place)
  • Failure to replace missing teeth, and the resultant facial and joint collapse
  • Excessive gum chewing or nail biting
  • Jaw thrustinga habit of moving the jaw forward, backward or side to side
  • Arthritis or other disease or lesions of the joint

Treating TMJ

Assisting patients with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) is one of Dr. Sushko's treatment methods, and in many cases he can relieve pressure, headaches and jaw pain that does not respond to other types of treatment.

At your initial exam with Dr. Sushko, he will check your jaw as well as the state of your teeth and gums to locate any signs of mal-occlusion (lack of alignment of your teeth and jaw bones). If you are one of the many people suffering from TMJ, Dr. Sushko will advise you on treatment options which can include nightguards to protect your teeth from grinding, ClearCorrect to adjust your teeth and bite into place or, in some cases, traditional braces.

In every case, the treatment is tailored to the individual needs of each patient so that they can have a comfortable bite and can chew and talk without pain.

Treatment options for TMJ

  • Pain relief: Ibuprofen has been used for temporary relief of pain in the temporomandibular joints and headaches associated with TMJ pain. If the pain is more neurological in nature, the pain will not respond well with these drugs.
  • Gentle jaw stretching and relaxing exercises you can do at home—this is the choice for TMJ related to stress, excessive gum chewing or temporary pain of the TMJ.
  • Nightguards are the most widely-used treatment for TMJ. They can be used to alleviate pain right away and also to prevent teeth from continued enamel wear and root exposure due to teeth grinding, clenching or bruxism.
  • Tooth reconstruction—this is used for those with collapsed bites, when missing teeth are not replaced or where excessive enamel wear has already occurred. Teeth reconstruction involves restoring the teeth to the correct size, height and shape in order for the jaws to line up properly. This relieves TMJ pain and creates a beautiful smile.
  • Invisible braces such as ClearCorrect or traditional braces are used to correct crowding and teeth malalignment.
  • Surgery can be done to reposition the TMJs to a more favorable location, correct a lower face asymmetry or remove tumors.

More about TMJ

In many cases the first time a person realizes they have TMJ is when they get a painful popping in their jaw or their jaw lock up and will not open and close properly. These are both extreme instances and cases of TMJ can and should be diagnosed much earlier. Some of the specific situations Dr. Sushko looks for include:

Bruxism (grinding teeth) – Many people clench and grind their teeth at night without knowing it. This can be because the person's teeth don't line up properly or because their muscles are too tight to allow the joint to move freely.

Occlusion (tooth alignment) – More serious problems with TMJ start simply with a person's teeth not lining properly, giving them a bite that feels off in a given direction. This can worsen over time and can often be handled simply by locating the teeth in the mouth that don't fit properly and adjusting these with a new crown or veneer. In some cases, braces or ClearCorrect may be a better solution.

Headaches – Unexplained headaches can come from malocclusion. When you bite down forcefully your teeth may not come together properly, and forcing your jaw backwards. The lower jaw moves and this can pinch the nerves and blood vessels. Your jaw is ultimately connected to a nerve which runs to your temples, and this can be a source of headaches or migraines.

Nightguards – A nightguard is a high tech, custom-fabricated appliance that is placed on the upper or lower teeth. This relieves pain of the jaw joints, to prevent wear of tooth enamel, and to protect teeth, crowns and bridges from breaking or getting loose. It also helps prevent teeth grinding and/or clenching. 

The nightguard must be custom-made by a dental lab. Avoid the use an over-the-counter nightguard, because these are not made for your teeth. If a nightguard is not custom fitted it can cause more harm than good.