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TMD and the Medical Food Chain

By: Dr. Louis Giordano and Shannon DeAngelo

So you’ve been experiencing head/face/ear pain. Maybe the pain just started, or maybe you’ve had it a while and it’s gotten worse. You’ve been to your medical doctor who referred you to the ENT who, in turn, referred you to the neurologist who referred you for an MRI of your head- all of this legwork and expense to tell you there is “nothing wrong.” Hmmm….so now you try the chiropractor, massage therapist, acupuncturist, physical therapist, and/or just about any profession that you think might help. And after all that, you still have the same head/face/ear pain you started out with. You’ve also probably amassed an interesting array of drugs that haven’t resolved your problem, but have likely caused more issues for you due to their side effects. Sound familiar? This is how about 80% of our TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction/Disorders) patients present. They have been seeking a solution for months or longer to no avail. Their frustration is palpable; their hope is diminished; and their patience is spent. They come to our office desperately hoping that by some miracle we will be able to tell them what is wrong and that we will be able to fix it. As we do our initial work up and discuss how all of their symptoms are related to TMD (we call this connecting the dots), we begin to see the light of hope in our patients’ eyes. At the conclusion of the initial appointment, when they realize we have successfully helped countless others just like them, our patients’ relief is often evident by their tears. It breaks my heart to think these patients have been through so much and suffered so long for something we can treat and have been successfully treating for the last 25 years.

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Treating TMD is not always easy, but it is rarely impossible. TMJ disorders can be very complicated as no two people ever have the same exact condition. Patients who suffer from this disease often have multiple issues occurring simultaneously due to the nature of these disorders. For instance, there can be physical changes (often felt as neck, back, and/or hip etc. pain due to your body moving away from the pain) and/or chemical changes (elevation in your “wake up” hormone, cortisol, that affects your sleep, etc.) that happen as a result of a TMJ disorder. For these reasons, when necessary, we work with a team of professionals to help get you better. The key phrase is “when necessary.” Our goal is to do as little to patients as necessary to get them better. The body knows how to heal. Sometimes it just needs a little help.

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TM Disorders can be very complex by nature. It is critically important to understand all the nuances of the disorder that we are treating so that we can be successful. The key to successful treatment is an accurate diagnosis. TMJ disorders can be muscular or structural and often a combination of both. Sometimes the primary issue might not be your jaw at all. It might be that your TMD is a secondary issue. Improper diagnosis/treatment can make you worse. It’s why there is so much TMJ therapy failure. We have spent the last 25 years in more than 1500 hours of continuing education for treatment of both TMD and sleep disorders, and we still continue to learn from each patient we treat. We are doing our best to educate our local professional community to help patients avoid going through the medical food chain so that they can get treatment sooner! You can help, too, by helping us spread the word! For more information, visit our website: binghamtontmjandsleep.com