Re: Will a splint work instead of surgery?
Mountain reader, I think it was you that posted something once about your ear finally popping after wearing a splint or was it from physically therapy...? Or a combination? I just want my ear to pop, whenever it does my symptoms including my balance is always back to normal.[QUOTE]
I think the question of surgery really depends on the severity of your jaw/bite issues.
I've had success with non-surgical treatments, but it is different for everyone.
When my tmj discs slipped forward, it pushed my lower jaw back towards my ear. The tmj and ear are only mm apart so it doesn't take much. That is what caused my ear stuffiness. Having things displaced eventually made my muscles unhappy and all the muscle spasms gave me some intense pain. The lower mandibular repositioning splint helped me find a "correct" bite with my lower jaw by bringing it forward and a bit to the right. The physical therapy helped ALOT in getting the muscles calmed down. My PT is specially trained in working with TMJD so I know I was in very capable hands. It took the combination because those muscles had to loosen and remain loosened in order to allow my bite to "naturally" stay in the new positioning which the splint was providing.
I learned a lot (and spent alot) in trying to get a diagnosis and find someone properly trained to treat TMJD. Please make sure your dentist is properly trained in creating TMJ splints and treating TMJD. Many dentist treat TMJ and don't have enough training which can lead to more problems. Find out what training your dentist has. Additional training in TMJD, functional orthodontics, neuromuscular dentistry, and orofacial pain treatment are indications you might be in good hands.
Did your dentist give you a written recommended treatment plan for your course of TMJD treatment? If not, I'd ask for one. Treating tmjd typically involves a series of steps and most plans will involve Phase I (initially getting the jaw into proper positioning) and Phase II (establishing a new permanent bite in that positioning).
The splint therapy did take time to get me to a place my ear popped. If you can find someone trained in tmj/orofacial trigger point therapy, you can get some immediate relief. It isn't a cure and the trigger point treatments can be extremely painful, but really really help in the short term. Releases of the masseter and pterygoid helped me tons.
Can you share why your dentist said he wanted surgery as an option for you?
If you share the area in which you live, there are many people on this board who may be able to help you find a good tmj dentist or give other recommendations.
If you are interested in overall TMJ health and want a better understanding of what everything means, I recommend reading a book called The TMJ Healing Plan by Cynthia Peterson, PT. It is cheap, but is is new and very comprehensive. It also gives tons of strategies you can use at home as well.
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