Woman with TMJ pain
If you’re like most dentists, you haven’t been taught very much about temporomandibular joints. 1 , 2 You’ve had patients with TMJ symptoms and tried your best to help them. Maybe you tried a splint first because it’s noninvasive. Then maybe you tried equilibration. You gave home-care instructions. You prescribed medication. If you and the patient were lucky, the symptoms improved. It can be frustrating for both of you, especially when there is no improvement. You wish treating “TMJ patients” could be as straightforward as treating caries

Remember when you first treated a carious lesion in dental school? You had been very well prepared for that first cavity prep. You were taught all about caries, all about cavity preparation, and all about restoring cavities. You had been taught dental anatomy, physical and biologic properties of teeth, bacteriology, caries pathology, instrumentation, materials science, local anesthesiology, cavity preparation, pulp desensitization, restorative choice, restorative placement, and restorative finishing. You were taught to guide your patients from prevention to restoration to maintenance. You got to practice over and over again on your manikin. You were finally ready for clinic.

Those first carious teeth had patients attached, with all of the associated difficulties. It was learning something new to be added to what you had learned. It took a long time and lots of practice, and you were finally able to comfortably (for you), efficiently, and reliably treat caries. Easy, right? Compare that training to the training you had been given in treating TMJ problems. There’s is no comparison. Try a comparison to learning to treat periodontitis or endodontic problems. See? Imagine trying to treat any of those issues with as much training as you had about temporomandibular joint problems. It’s not your fault that “TMJ patients” seem so difficult.

It’s not the patients’ fault either. It’s the system. But we don’t need to place blame. We need to learn to help patients suffering from temporomandibular disorders. You are accomplished at diagnosing and treating dental and periodontal problems. Maybe you refer the more difficult cases, but you would never refer something that you could comfortably, efficiently, and reliably treat.

Patient gratitude keeps most of us showing up to work in the morning. And it keeps the practice growing. No patients are more grateful than those who have been in pain for months, years, or even decades. Patients who are thrilled with their new veneers or crowns are nowhere near as grateful as those finally relieved of their pain. I offer you the resources and one-on-one mentoring for your individual patients with TMJ symptoms and dysfunction to feel and function better. It’s easier than you think to comfortably, efficiently, and reliably treat these patients, and you won’t need to refer them out. They become ambassadors for your practice.

Learn more about turning TMJ patients into ambassadors for your practice. Drop me an email to bob[at]tmjmentor.info or send a text to 505-470-6320 so we can set up a free one-hour conversation by video chat or phone. We’ll learn if you need what I offer and if you and I are compatible. If not, we each go our separate ways.

1. Ana Karina de Medeiros Tormes , George Azevedo Lemos , Pâmela Lopes Pedro da Silva , Franklin Delano Soares Forte , Frederico Barbosa de Sousa , Diego Neves Araujo & André Ulisses Dantas Batista (2020): Temporomandibular disorders: knowledge, competency, and attitudes of predoctoral dental students, CRANIO®, DOI: 10.1080/08869634.2020.1812816

2. Borromeo, G. L., & Trinca, J. (2012). Understanding of Basic Concepts of Orofacial Pain Among Dental Students and a Cohort of General Dentists. Pain Medicine, 13(5), 631–639. doi:10.1111/j.1526-4637.2012.01360.x