Last year, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) completed its first-ever comprehensive study on temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), or, as they call it, temporomandibular disorders (TMD). The study was the result of years of effort, including a comprehensive review of research and numerous hearings where TMJ patients were able to describe their experiences with the condition and its treatment.

The result was a massive 400-page publication that includes detailed information about the current state of knowledge about TMJ treatment. It is not heartening. Among the findings of the NAM is the simple fact: many doctors and dentists haven’t received adequate training in TMJ. Less-educated doctors and dentists may guide patients to less-effective and even potentially harmful treatments.

Columbia, SC TMJ dentist Dr. Adam Hahn has received far more training in treating TMJ than most dentists. He has a long track record of successful treatment, helping many patients to live pain-free.

woman drinking a glass of water with TMJ, jaw pain

Doctors Poorly Trained in TMJ

The NAM notes in its report that “Medical education and training currently includes little training about diagnosing and treating TMDs, orofacial pain, or pain management in general (IOM, 2011).” The overall lack of pain management training is somewhat baffling, given that pain relief is one of the most common reasons why people visit their doctor or dentist.

The lack of training on TMJ continues even when doctors move into specialties. Few specialties even mention the management of TMJ. Those getting training in pain medicine, for example, are required to understand the diagnosis and treatment of orofacial pain. However, these doctors don’t receive any training in managing patients with TMJ symptoms other than pain–which are common. Similarly, doctors trained in headache medicine have to understand that TMJ can cause secondary headaches, but they aren’t taught how to actually treat TMJ.

The lack of training doctors receive about TMJ isn’t a surprise to us. We’ve mentioned before that your family physician might know little about TMJ

Many Dentists Are Poorly Trained, Too

The NAM report acknowledges that dentists tend to receive more exposure to TMJ than doctors do. However, it also notes that there are no specific or global requirements for studying TMJ at dental school. As such, some dental schools only require 10 hours of TMJ teaching over four years. In a national survey of 53 dental schools, only 3 had a coherent program of teaching TMJ. This may be due, in part, to the fact that TMJ treatment is not a required area of knowledge by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Adding TMJ treatment to the requirements for graduation would improve emphasis on TMJ prior to dentist graduation.

Since few dentists attend a residency after dental school, there is little opportunity for them to get exposure to helping people with TMJ before going into practice. Even so, many dentists will offer TMJ treatment without seeking out additional training. 

The NAM report suggests that creating a TMJ specialty in dentistry could improve the situation. While most dentists would likely continue to receive fragmentary education in TMJ treatment, there would at least be some dentists who had received certification in TMJ treatment and could be counted on to have the latest education and the most complete knowledge of the treatment options. This could help people make informed decisions about their care.

woman looking in the mirror with jaw pain

How to Choose a TMJ Dentist

But until CODA, dental schools, and/or the American Dental Association take action on the NAM suggestions, people might find it hard to determine which dentists have good training in TMJ treatment.

Another problem noted in the NAM report is that there are no good mechanisms in place to pay for TMJ treatment. Insurance coverage is uneven. This can drive patients to focus on finding an affordable dentist for their TMJ treatment. However, this can actually make TMJ treatment more expensive. Effective treatment is the only affordable treatment. Otherwise, patients will have to keep seeking additional treatment until they finally find treatment that actually works for them. The NAM report noted that some patients saw as many as 20 different medical care providers (doctors, dentists, alternative medicine providers, and more) in their quest for effective treatment.

To choose a TMJ dentist, look for:

  • Specialized training in TMJ
  • Testimonials and/or reviews from successfully treated patients
  • An emphasis on noninvasive treatment

This will help you find a TMJ dentist who is well-trained in the condition and unlikely to recommend or perform harmful treatments. 

Dr. Adam Hahn Is the Clear Choice in Columbia, SC

If you are suffering from TMJ pain or other symptoms in or around Columbia, SC, Dr. Adam Hahn can help you find relief.

Dr. Hahn has received considerable specialized training in TMJ from LVI, a worldwide leader in neuromuscular dentistry–an effective approach to TMJ treatment.

In addition, he has helped many people get relief from TMJ symptoms. Read reviews of Dr. Adam Hahn.

Dr. Hahn’s training in neuromuscular dentistry taught him to prioritize noninvasive treatment first, starting with TENS, a kind of electric massage, and only moving on to other care as necessary.

To learn how Dr. Hahn can help you find relief from your TMJ, please call (803) 781-9090 or use our contact form today to schedule an appointment at our Columbia, SC office.