TMJ/TMD Overview


In this video, Dr. Gallagher talks about one of his success stories of a TMJ patient who came to him hopeless after seeing 12 other doctors for his TMJ condition. This patient is now restored, pain free and back to enjoying life again!

If you are reading this, you likely are looking for answers to your TMJ (Temporomandibular joint) problem.  TMJ is a popular term used to describe a disorder of the jaw joints, chewing muscles and bite. Symptoms can masquerade as a multitude of other problems such as sinus headaches, migraines, neck and shoulder stiffness, earaches and tooth problems. These symptoms can be caused by an instability of your chewing system and can be successfully treated by a dentist who has specialized training in managing these disorders, such as Dr. Mike Gallagher.

TMD (TMJ dysfunction) is the dental term describing a collection of symptoms, which result when the chewing muscles bite and jaw joints do not work together correctly.  These are the joints that connect your jaw to your skull. When these joints are not functioning as designed, they can cause many problems, such as:

  • Clicking or popping noises
  • Pain to opening or closing the jaw
  • Locking or limited opening of your mouth

Muscle spasm goes hand-in-hand with displaced jaw joints. Because the nerves and muscles are so complex in this area, when these muscles are in spasm the problems can be far-reaching. People suffer from symptoms they would never think to associate with their bite, such as:

  • Headaches and Facial Pain
  • Dizziness
  • Earaches or ringing of the ears
  • Clenching or grinding of the teeth
  • Worn, broken loose and chipped teeth
  • Neck, shoulder, or back pain
  • Teeth that are sensitive to hot/cold and or biting
  • Abfractions or wedge-shaped notches in the teeth at the gum line
  • Gum recession

The primary problem can be in the joints themselves; the muscles of the face and jaw; the bite (how the teeth fit and work for chewing) or a combination of these. Because the symptoms masquerade as so many other conditions, many people travel from doctor to doctor in search of relief. It is estimated that as many as 10-15% of Americans suffer from one or more of these symptoms. Many never think to seek a dentist trained in TMD for help.

What causes Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction?

The structures that make it possible to open and close your mouth include the jawbones, jaw joints, and chewing muscles. These are very specialized and must work together whenever you chew, speak or swallow.

Your teeth are inserted in your jaw bone. At the other end of your jaw bone are the temporomandibular joints. These joints attach your jaw to your skull. Muscles attach both the bones and joints and allow them to move.

Any problem which prevents the complex system of teeth, muscles, bones and joints from working together in harmony may result in TMD.

There are various ways this system can be disrupted, such as accidents involving a blow to the face or a whiplash. Yet the most common cause of TMD relates to your teeth and your bite. If your bite isn’t right, it can affect both the muscles and the joints. What do we mean by a “bad bite”? We mean that your upper and lower teeth do not come together in a way that provides the proper bracing support for your jaw against your skull.

A healthy bite has the proper amount of overlap of the upper front teeth over the lower front teeth. This guides side to side chewing motion (think of guardrails on a roadway). The front teeth protect the back teeth by limiting excess stress during chewing. When the front teeth are not aligned properly or are worn down, they are unable to provide this protective function, damaging the front and back teeth, bone, gums, TMJ’s and jaw muscles.

Muscle Spasm

Your upper and lower teeth must come together firmly each time you swallow. This happens over 1000 times each day and night! When your bite is unstable your muscles must work extra hard. This extra work makes them shortened and stiff. Eventually this strain makes them feel painful. A vicious cycle begins of increased tissue damage, muscle tenderness, and pain. The pain makes you feel tense and uptight. This worsens the muscle spasm, which in turn increases the pain.

The position of your teeth can also affect the position of your jaw joints. Each jaw joint is a ball and socket joint. When functioning properly, the ball and socket do not actually touch because a thin disc of cartilage rides between them. The disc acts as a cushion and allows the joint to move smoothly. Each disc is held in place and guided by muscle.

If your bite is not right, the disc is pulled forward by hyperactivity of the muscle. Since the disc no longer serves as a cushion, the joint itself now rubs against the boney socket and presses on pain fibers.

Mild displacements cause a clicking or popping sound in the jaw joint; more severe displacements can be very painful and eventually can cause permanent damage to the joint.

An unstable bite can cause both jaw joint displacement and muscle strain and pain. When this condition is prolonged, the body begins to compensate and adapt by involving muscles in the neck, back and shoulders.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis of TMD involves a thorough history; an examination of the jaw joint and chewing muscles; evaluating joint noises; and checking the teeth and bite for wear and proper alignment. In some case, additional records may include study models for detailed bite analysis and imaging such as CBCT or MRI.

Hello, I’m Dr. Michael Gallagher, DDS and the specific type of treatment I use at my practice in Eden Prairie for TMJ Disorder is called “Oral Appliance Therapy.” If you’ve been experiencing symptoms of TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder) such as jaw pain, headaches, facial pain, or teeth grinding, you may be wondering what treatment options are available to you. Oral Appliance Therapy allows for the full stabilization of the jaw joint, putting an end to the painful cycle of muscle spasms and symptoms associated with TMJ dysfunction.

The particular type of Oral Appliance Therapy that we use here at Gallagher Dentistry & Facial Pain Center is called MAGO Therapy. Over the years of being a dentist, I’ve found that MAGO Therapy is one of the fastest, most effective and PROVEN methods for treating TMD symptoms. Most of my patients are able to obtain relief within a very short period of time (just a few weeks or less) and their symptoms either subside substantially or are eliminated entirely.

How MAGO Therapy Provides Lasting TMJ Pain Relief?
The TMJs are the two joints on either side of your face that are responsible for the functioning of your jaw. When these joints are healthy, you are able to move your jaw freely and speak, chew, and swallow without discomfort. When they are unhealthy, moving your jaw can become painful and difficult, and eventually lead to TMD symptoms like headaches, teeth grinding, and facial pain.

Thanks to science, we now know that there is a direct relationship between the health of these joints and jaw alignment. The upper and lower teeth must come together correctly for the joints to remain healthy. Misalignment of the bite can cause the TMJs to become unstable. The chewing muscles spasm and contract erratically, causing a great deal of pain. In order to reverse this dysfunction, the teeth must be kept apart so the chewing muscles can relax and the TMJs can once again become stable. This is precisely what MAGO Therapy accomplishes.

What Is MAGO Therapy?
MAGO Therapy is a form of Oral Appliance Therapy. MAGO stands for Maxillary Anterior Guided Orthotic. A MAGO is a device that is worn over the front teeth and adjusted weekly.

With this method, the teeth can successfully be kept apart. This reduces inflammation and allows the chewing muscles to relax so the jaw joints can regain stability. Every week, calculated adjustments are made, allowing the TMJs to move into a healthy position. During this time, I observe and record the position of the patient’s jaw (also known as the hinge axis).

Benefits of MAGO Therapy
MAGO therapy is used to stabilize dysfunctioning jaw joints and muscles. The primary benefits of this form of Oral Appliance Therapy are:
● It provides relief from symptoms: Debilitating symptoms can be reduced or even eliminated entirely.
● It allows for an accurate diagnosis: Once the jaw joints are stable, an accurate diagnosis can be obtained, and a treatment plan can be devised thereafter.

What Are the Next Steps in TMJ Treatment?
Once the jaw joints are stable (which usually happens about 4-12 weeks into treatment), we can move on to the next steps. I can give you an accurate diagnosis of the root cause of your symptoms and create a treatment plan that keeps your teeth and jaw joints healthy.

It’s important to note that while MAGO Therapy can help relieve TMJ symptoms, it is not a cure. It is simply a stepping stone, albeit an effective one. In order for you to regain full health, we will need to address all of the issues that led to your symptoms in the first place.

Find Relief from TMD Symptoms
Are you searching for relief from jaw pain or TMD symptoms? If so, I encourage you to contact my office. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms that you believe may be related to TMJ Disorder, please reach out for help as soon as possible. If you are in the Eden Prairie, Minnesota area or willing to travel to my location, I would certainly be happy to provide a consultation for $150 to meet with you and discuss your concerns in detail, call (952) 942-9600. I believe that by working together, we can find a solution to the issues you are experiencing and help you get back on track with your health and enjoying life again!

More About Gallagher Dentistry & Facial Pain Center
Dr. Michael Gallagher and our Eden Prairie Dentistry team are committed to providing exceptional care and empowering our patients with information about their dental health. Please take advantage of Dr. Michael Gallagher’s offer for a $150 initial consultation consultation. If you have any questions about our services or would like to schedule an appointment, we invite you to give us a call at (952) 942-9600. The outstanding experience of our dental team, Dr. Gallagher, and the skills of our staff have helped us in successfully treating our patient’s oral problems. We’re always welcoming new patients throughout Eden Prairie, Chanhassen, Bloomington, Minnetonka, Edina, Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Burnsville, Plymouth, Eagan, Richfield and surrounding areas. For more information, please contact us!

Schedule Your TMJ Care Appointment Today

Gallagher Dentistry & Facial Pain Center specializes in TMJ care and is looking forward to providing you with the personalized treatment that you need. Contact us today to schedule your first appointment! 

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