The journey that most people take in finding a TMJ specialist is twisting with stops and starts along the way.
This is one of the first questions I ask patients. Most are referred by physicians or dentists, others by friends and a few through web searches.
In talking to someone who is going to help me with my new practice getting the word out, she too asked “so how do patients find you?” My answer, she said needed to be blogged, partly because its kind of funny!
After I ask, I often hear that Dr. so and so recommended they come here after developing a jaw problem, ear pain, painful teeth or other common TMJ symptoms. Often their dentists tried some of the traditional interventions for TMJ pain relief, as is recommended; rest, a night guard, minor bite adjustment, etc.
After a time, if the traditional TMJ treatments didn’t help, they may be given my name as a resource. Then they may mention it to their kid’s orthodontist who recommends they see me. After more time and worsening pain, they may seek opinions from other dentists, an endodontists (root canal specialist), neurologist or their regular physician, sometimes an Ear Nose, Throat specialist; who may mention my name if their exams or prescriptions don’t help.
Then comes the internet search. They find the NTI night guard; a small button-like appliance guaranteed to solve all TM and muscle problems and they have one made. Symptoms change, but renew or worsen and then their bite changes…
Then they finally decide to call me, after a couple of years when their jaws become limited in movement or pain really escalates, teeth hurt, can’t get dental work done, etc. In most cases we can still help but the damage has progressed so far it won’t get “back to normal” and patients say they “wish they would have come sooner”. I somewhat jokingly respond that neither of us were ready!
I really hope that you have found me way before your condition caused permanent damage.
Ruling out other potential sources of pain is beneficial but the typical advice given in the academic dental community is to “do nothing” because the condition has “been shown to be self-limiting”. Nothing is further from the truth. Joint problems don’t self-correct and symptoms vary over time, often misleading well-meaning practitioners who aren’t familiar with the nature of a TMJ disorder.
The earlier I can identify a TMJ disorder, the better the outcome. If you have friends who are living with chronic head or neck pain encourage them to get help sooner rather than later. Schedule an appointment.