Many patients ask “What kind of training is involved to diagnose TMJ disorders?” The answer is that most dentists should be able to do a basic head and neck exam to determine how big a person can open their mouth and whether or not there are irritated muscles in the head and neck region. What makes the difference is those dentists who are able to read an MRI with their radiologist and understand how to spot irritation, inflammation, and outright dislocation of the articular disc. Without that MRI being read properly, the dentist may not have a proper path for making a treatment determination. In addition, the dentist needs to spend many hours learning how to make and adjust a proper appliance to take the pressure off the jaw joints. This is a skill that takes a long time to get a handle on.

The appliance that Dr. Stack and I use is called a modified Gelb appliance. What it does is that it allows the jaw joints to relax, allows the jaw muscles to stretch open more, and it helps the pressure in the joint to be released. Oftentimes, patients notice a difference in a short time and get relief of their TMJ problems, which in turn helps with the comorbidities such as movement disorders. In other words, by treating the jaw joints, it might help with Parkinson’s symptoms. We never make a guarantee that this will help, but when the indicators are there, and many times they are, it really can make a difference. In our next article, we will discuss what happens if the jaw joints are too damaged to fix with an appliance.

Dr. Jeffrey L. Brown joined forces with Dr. Brendan Stack in Vienna, Virginia. See their new Wellness Village page.

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Updated: August 16, 2017