TMJ Diagnosis Grapevine

TMJ is a notoriously difficult condition to pin down. Diagnosis depends on a combined approach that includes several phases of scientifically validated procedures. Careful diagnosis is the first step in successful TMJ treatment and can help us precisely identify the degree of your TMJ and how best to treat it.

This page contains basic background information on how a TMJ diagnosis is conducted, but if you want to learn how this procedure will work for you, please call (817) 481-6888 or email for an appointment with a Grapevine TMJ dentist at Grapevine Dental Care.

Reviewing Your Medical History

TMJ doesn’t exist in isolation. For many people, it’s closely related to other conditions you might experience, so we’ll want to make sure we understand your complete medical history. We’ll ask about other conditions that are related to TMJ, including sleep apnea, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Jaw pain is the most common TMJ symptom that brings people to the dentist. We will talk to you about your pain. Pain is highly subjective, so it’s important that you describe your pain in as much detail as you can to help us determine the probable cause and best treatment for your TMJ. We will also ask questions about your pain, including when it started, whether this is the first time it’s occurred or if it keeps coming back, whether it is related to your jaw motion or if it is unaffected, and other aspects of the pain. It’s important for us to understand the degree of your pain, so be honest in your ratings of pain and whether your activities are limited by pain.

We will ask about other symptoms that may or may not be related to TMJ. The goal is to determine whether your primary condition is TMJ or one of the many conditions that have overlapping symptoms, including psychological conditions like depression or anxiety.

The TMJ Diagnosis Exam

Once we understand your medical history, we will conduct a thorough exam of your mouth and jaw. We will watch your jaw open and close and listen for jaw sounds. We will often touch your joint to try to feel the motion of the components–sometimes you might hear sounds that we can’t hear, but we can feel them. We’ll feel the jaw in the closed and open positions so we have a good sense of how the jaw is fitting together.

New Tom VGi

An image of the cone beam computed tomography unit we use in our office. Note the open design for patient ease and comfort.

The next vital component is to feel all your jaw muscles. We will touch them to determine the level of tension in your muscles. We will touch the muscles as you open and close your jaw to feel their function. We will press your muscles gently. During the entire exam, tell us immediately if you experience pain–and whether the pain is common or unusual for you.

We will look in your mouth to see if there are signs of tooth wear or damage that are common with TMJ. Restorations are also often damaged by TMJ.

Scientific Measurements

Questionnaires and exam lay the groundwork for understanding your TMJ, but scientific diagnosis of TMJ requires objective, repeatable measurements.

One of the tools we use for TMJ diagnosis is the K-7 system. This includes three components that detail different aspects of your TMJ. The electrosonogram allows us to objectively measure and characterize the sounds your jaw is making. The computerized mandibular scanner (CMS) precisely tracks the motion of your jaw, allowing us to see whether it has irregular motions that may be the result of or may contribute to TMJ. Finally, the electromyograph allows us to measure how hard your muscles are working at any given time. This can tell us whether TMJ is causing your jaw muscles to work disproportionately hard, leading to muscle pain or potentially contributing to trigeminal nerve overload and migraine headaches.

K7 readings

K7 readings

One tool we pair with the K-7 is TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). TENS works like a muscle massage that relaxes tense jaw muscles. Once we’ve measured the state of your jaw with muscle tension, it’s good to relax the muscles and see how your jaw functions independent of acquired habits.

We have three imaging tools we might use to look at your jaw joints directly. X-rays can give us a flat snapshot of how the jaw components look. This is of limited value, but in some cases it can be useful.

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) allows us to look in detail at the soft tissues of the jaw joint, such as the ligaments and cushioning disk.

CBCT (cone beam computed tomography) is a form of 3D x-ray that lets us precisely reconstruct your jaw joint in detail. It’s especially good for looking at the bones of the joint.

Once we’ve determined the nature and extent of your TMJ, we can recommend the best treatment or treatments for immediate and long-lasting relief. To learn what’s causing your TMJ in Grapevine, please call (817) 481-6888 or email for an appointment at Grapevine Dental Care.