Temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, is notoriously difficult to diagnose and treat. The term itself is less a disease and more an umbrella term used to describe a dysfunction of the joint which allows the muscles to move the jaw side-to-side and backward and forward. For some patients, TMJ can be a minor inconvenience, with bouts of lockjaw and pain while eating. For others, however, symptoms can be wide-ranging and severe. Beyond simple jaw pain, patients can experience frequent headaches, tingling or numbness in their fingers, and even vertigo. That’s because the temporomandibular joint maintains a complex relationship with the skull, and any dysfunction can cause wide-ranging issues throughout the body.

If you’ve been suffering from TMJ for a while, chances are you’ve heard of TENS treatment. Many neuromuscular dentists keep this machine in their repertoire to help treat patients. But what exactly is TENS treatment, and how does it treat TMJ?

young woman suffering from TMJ pain

TENS Therapy in Dentistry Explained

TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. This battery-operated device relaxes muscles to facilitate diagnosis and treat pain. It works by delivering small electrical pulses which pass through electrodes on your skin. These pulses stimulate the nerves in the area of treatment, reducing their ability to transmit pain signals to the brain. These same signals can also coax the body into releasing endorphins known to offer pain relief.

TENS therapy in dentistry helps us find your jaw’s natural optimal position. When you have TMJ, your jaw can habitually move to stressful positions. It often can’t find the rest position. Using TENS to relax your muscles lets you move your jaw without the acquired habits. That lets us find the proper rest position so we can work on getting long-term relief. It will also bring immediate relief to some of the jaw pain you experience.

TENS Usage and Benefits

The usage of TENS units isn’t limited to the treatment of TMJ. In fact, TENS units have been used by professionals around the world to treat neck and back pain, arthritis, sports injuries, multiple sclerosis, and several other diseases. Because TENS is a non-invasive procedure, it allows patients the benefits of pain relief without the need for medication or surgery. They also have very little side-effects. While some may experience prickling sensations they find uncomfortable, these symptoms subside rapidly.

Other Conditions That Benefit From TENS Therapy

If you use TENS therapy as part of your TMJ treatment and realize how helpful it is, you might explore some of the other conditions that benefit from TENS therapy.

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Low back pain
  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Tendinitis
  • Bursitis
  • Endometriosis
  • Labor pain
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Osteoarthritis

Talk to your doctor about TENS therapy to help bring relief from these other conditions.

Who Shouldn’t Use TENS Therapy

Although TENS therapy is highly effective at providing relief, it isn’t the most recommended solution for everyone. There are a number of factors that could prevent you from being a good candidate for TENS therapy.

TENS therapy shouldn’t be used for the following conditions

  • Cancer
  • Pregnancy (with the exception of labor)
  • Epilepsy
  • Bleeding hemorrhagic disorder
  • Heart disease
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • An implantable device

In addition, TENS therapy shouldn’t be applied to the following areas:

  • Infected tissues
  • Tissues that recently received radiation
  • To damaged skin
  • Near or on eyes, mouth, side or front of the neck, or on the head
  • Near genitals or reproductive organs
  • Areas that have reduced or no sensation
  • Those who can’t communicate well due to mental impairment

For safety reasons, TENS therapy isn’t the best solution for everyone. Talk to your doctor to find out whether TENS therapy is right for you.

What Other TMJ Treatment Options Are Available?

Although TENS is generally practiced as a treatment for TMJ, it’s practiced in conjunction with other non-invasive methods. One of the most common interventions paired with TENS is a custom-designed mouth splint. The temporomandibular joint is similar to other joints in your body. With enough rest and time, the body can often heal itself, which is why doctors are known to prescribe a sling for sprained wrists. The problem is that we often injure our temporomandibular joint, again and again, hurting our body’s chances of healing. Mouth splints position your jaw in a way that optimizes recovery, allowing your body to do the rest.

If you’re experiencing frequent jaw pain due to TMJ, you should schedule an appointment soon. TMJ is a degenerative disorder that could cause significant damage if left untreated.

Contact Our TMJ Dentist in Columbia, SC Today

Stop living in pain from untreated TMJ. Dr. Adam Hahn in Columbia, SC has experience helping people with all stages and types of TMJ. He can help you, too. Please call (803) 781-9090 or email Smile Columbia Dentistry today to schedule an appointment with our TMJ dentist. Relief is just around the corner.