GDP awareness of TMD management techniques is keyFeatured Products Promotional Features
Posted by: The Probe 6th June 2020
Awareness of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems is generally high among dental professionals as they remain fairly common in patients. However, the treatment pathways available to help these people are less well-known. While there are several possible reasons for this – such as a lack of education in dental schools and changing perceptions about associated conditions – it is important that we start to rectify the situation in order to alleviate the suffering of people with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMDs).
How common and who?
It has been suggested that up to 12% of the global population have an issue with their jaw joint.[i] [ii] It has also been found that females are more likely to have TMDs than males. Research into the area has attributed these gender differences to behavioural, psychological, hormonal and constitutional factors, although more conclusive evidence is still required.[iii]
Why does this affect GDPs?
TMDs often present in patients with pain around the jaw, ear or temple; clicking, popping or grinding upon jaw movement; a headache around the temples; difficulty opening the jaw; and jaw locking.[iv] While symptoms may not be life-threatening, they can have a detrimental impact on the sufferer’s everyday life. Constant pain and discomfort, as well as difficulty chewing could significantly restrict their diet and lead to nutritional problems. Persistent headaches are just as little fun. Where chronic TMD symptoms are present, this has also been associated with a higher risk of depression.[v] As such, TMDs can drastically reduce the sufferer’s quality of life.
The benefit of patients being able to find a solution with their GDP, is that they can improve their quality of life instantly. Mild to moderate TMJ problems can often be reduced, if not resolved, with simple solutions that patients can implement at home, following professional advice from their dentist. More complex issues can be referred to an appropriate maxillofacial surgeon, enabling the patient to leave the practice with an allocated treatment pathway. Both outcomes can increase the patient’s trust in their GDP and help to strengthen the patient-practitioner relationship immeasurably.
This offers several benefits for the GDP. Not only do they enjoy the satisfaction of getting a patient out of pain, or at the very least starting a patient on the journey to pain-free life, but they also likely gain a patient for life. Returning patients – especially those who sing the praises of their GDP – are the cornerstone of every dental practice’s marketing strategy.
Determining treatment pathway
It is important that GDPs can identify those cases they can treat in a conservative way and those that require referral to a specialist. As with any area of dentistry, providing treatment within one’s remit is crucial for the success and safety of any procedures, as well as protection from potential medicolegal issues later down the line.
As always, the least invasive treatment solutions should be explored first. For example, some minor TMD symptoms can be relieved by physio therapy. The GDP can prescribe certain exercises for the patient to perform at home, details of which can be found on various NHS Trust websites and in information booklets online. GDPs may wish to work with physio therapists or even speech therapists to tailor programmes for some patients. This multi-disciplinary approach can help patients to see a more positive impact on their condition for improved results. Working with other healthcare professionals can also provide an additional resource for GDPs to seek information and guidance on how best to manage their patients with TMDs.
Other solutions that GDPs should be aware of are products like the OraStretch Press Rehab System, available in the UK from Incito Medtech. This easy-to-use, hand-operated device gently and safely stretches the jaw, joint and facial tissues, to increase mobility by up to 1-2mm per week, when used correctly and consistently. It is advised that patients use the device following recommendations from an appropriate healthcare practitioner to ensure they receive the instruction, support and supervision needed to guarantee their safety.
An additional, extendable service
By being aware of the different solutions available to treat TMD symptoms, GDPs can expand their services to meet the demands of their patients more efficiently. Dentists already have sufficient knowledge and skills to be able to effectively assess a patient’s mouth opening and the level of dysfunction, so are well-placed to provide or refer for successful treatment techniques. It is therefore important that GDPs know about the options available to them and who they can work with to manage more complex TMJ issues.
[i] Preddy S. Jaw Joint Problems. Bupa – Health information – Muscles, bones and joints. https://www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/muscles-bones-joints/jaw-joint-problems [Accessed March 2020]
[ii] National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Prevalence of TMJD and its signs and symptoms. Research – Data & Statistics – Facial pain. https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/research/data-statistics/facial-pain/prevalence [Accessed March 2020]
[iii] Bagis B, Ayaz EA, Turgut S, Durkan R, Özcan M. Gender difference in prevalence of signs and symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorders: a retrospective study on 243 consecutive patients. Int J Med Sci. 2012;9(7):539–544. doi:10.7150/ijms.4474
[iv] NHS. Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) .Health A to Z. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/temporomandibular-disorder-tmd/ [Accessed March 2020]
[v] Baker L. Strong link found between TMD and depression. University of Buffalo. March 2005. http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2005/03/7165.html [Accessed March 2020]
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