The Truth About TMJ Therapies: Is Nothing the Best Treatment?

tmj_diagramIf you have TMJ disorder symptoms should you do absolutely nothing? The answer is, of course, no. But rather surprisingly, an article from the New York Times a few years ago seemed to suggest just that with the headline, “Best Treatment for TMJ May be Nothing.” Is it true? Let’s clear up the confusion.

Today we now know that TMJ pain is very complicated.  Professionals believe many complex factors are to blame for TMJ pain. Just a partial list includes environmental issues, social stressors, behavioral habits and biological problems, to name but a few.

Shooting for the Moon and Missing

Unfortunately here’s where the problem comes in: instead of first talking with a dentist or health care provider about TMD symptoms, some believe in doing everything possible instead of nothing at all.  They push for a diagnostic workup that includes expensive medical exams and surgical procedures. As a result, some patients end up having irreversible therapies performed that, in the end, do little to nothing to relieve symptoms.

What You Should Really Do

For this reason, scientists at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research concluded, “Less is often best in treating TMJ disorders.”  They recommend starting with the basics.  First, mention your problems to your family physician or dentist. According to Dr. Leonard B Kaban, chief of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, as much as 80 to 90% of the essential information can be gleaned simply by talking to patients about their past medical and social history.

Next, an exam should be performed by a qualified professional. He or she can check for signs of muscle tenderness and/or pain in the jaw, and the presence of noises when opening and closing the jaw.

Making Sense of “Less” and “Nothing”

In conclusion, doing nothing at all is never advocated, even for patients experiencing only mild symptoms. Instead, the very first thing one should do is “less.” That means one should first schedule a visit with a qualified provider.

Start with the basics and contact Dr. Ronald C. Auvenshine if you think you have TMD symptoms.


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