Country singer, Leanne Rimes, filed a lawsuit on Valentine’s Day alleging that her dentist’s bad dental work damaged her career.  Rimes specifically complained about “severe tooth pain, gum inflammation and chronic gum bleeding” that she states came from veneers and crowns placed to fight her TMJ-related pain as well as improve her appearance.”  After my last month’s article, “Could you be suffering from TMJ,” I thought this recent incident in the news was quite timely.  The big question is how could “bad dental work” cause tooth pain and TMJ problems?

Like we discussed last month, a TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) disorder is the result of a poor or unhealthy bite.  Many things can cause an improper bite including:  genetics, severe clenching and grinding, trauma, and even dental work.  I would like to clarify this last item especially since this is the basis for Leanne Rimes’ complaints.  Many people live their lives accommodating to a non-ideal bite. Some may take over-the-counter medications for their headaches, tooth, or jaw pain.  Others may avoid certain foods that aggravate their TMJ symptoms.  There are some who even resort to muscle relaxers and narcotics to alleviate their discomfort, but they are still living their lives and accommodating.  Some people have NO symptoms at all!  Unfortunately, these same people can all be thrown into a severe pain spiral at any point in their lives, and new dental work can be a factor.

Paying close attention to a patient’s bite is one of the focuses in our practice. With our extensive education in Neuromuscular Dentistry, we have been taught to not only manage a person’s bite properly and comfortably, but also to educate people who are susceptible to TMJ problems based on our findings.

Common Symptoms in the mouth can lead to TMJ issues include:

  • Premature tooth wear
  •  Tooth loss
  • Teeth clenching
  • Teeth grinding
  • Tooth pain
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Limited opening of the jaw
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Clicking or popping of the jaw joints

When patients exhibit any of these signs, we make them aware of these findings and the possible consequences of not addressing them.  In addition, if extensive dental work is necessary, we give them the option of properly addressing their bite so that we minimize the chance of aggravating a potential TMJ problem.

Last February, Rimes informed her fans that she had undergone surgery to correct her TMJ disorder.  Even though Rimes’ severe case of TMJ required surgery, the most common method of treating TMJ in our office is not surgery but comes in the form of a neuromuscular orthotic. 90% of ALL TMJ pain is muscular in origin. A neuromuscular orthotic is an appliance that is used to support the jaw in a more relaxed, and comfortable, muscular position.  With the use of specialized computer monitoring equipment, we are able to identify which muscles are being affected, determine that person’s proper bite based on their own physiology, and fabricate an orthotic to support this position.  Once this orthotic is worn, the facial muscles eventually learn and adapt to thismore ideal position and symptoms are alleviated. Our TMJ patients usually see relief in as early as a few weeks, and this is a safe and effective alternative to TMJ surgery.

If you have any of the above-mentioned issues, please educate yourself on the possible risks of not addressing them.  TMJ disorders can be debilitating if they are not treated soon enough, and many people are prone to them.  If you do have signs of a TMJ disorder, please inform your dentist prior to any extensive dental work.  This will give them the information they need to either manage your treatment, or refer you to another doctor who can.