General Dentist or TMJ Specialist?

I have really good teeth. Never had a cavity or any other problems, though I do grind my teeth. I had a checkup a month ago with an all clear. Yet, this week I keep getting an intermittent pain in my teeth. I can’t tell exactly where it’s from. I don’t know if it’s a cavity or not. My cubicle neighbor said she had a similar problem and it turned out to be TMJ. Should I see a general dentist or a TMJ Specialist?

Norma

Dear Norma,

Woman holding her jaw in pain from TMJ

I want to clear up a common misunderstanding. There isn’t a recognized specialty in TMJ Disorder. Any dentist who treats TMJ is just a general dentist who (hopefully) has done additional study and training in TMJ treatment.

We’ll get into how to find a qualified TMJ dentist in a moment. First, let’s address your pain. You don’t have localized pain, but generalized. That makes me think it’s not a cavity. However, if it’s referred pain, that could still make a cavity a possibility.

Your checkup wasn’t too long ago, so unless your dentist missed something a cavity wouldn’t generally pop up and suddenly hurt in that short period of time. Here’s what I’m going to recommend. Go back to see your dentist and get some x-rays done. If by chance it is decay, it’s much easier to get a simple filling than to put it off until it blows up into a dental emergency. So don’t be afraid to go to the dentist and get diagnosed. It’s better than waiting until things are dangerous.

Finding a Qualified Dentist to Treat TMJ

If it turns out there’s not decay or any other typical dental issue, then it will be time to see a TMJ Specialist. So how do you know who is qualified without that true specialty degree? You ask about their TMJ training.

It should be post-graduate and be at some place like one of the following:

  • The Spear Institute
  • The Dawson Academy
  • The Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies
  • The Kois Center

These are just a few of the advanced training centers, but they’re among the most reputable. If they haven’t done significant post-graduate training, look elsewhere. Additionally, you should know that a good TMJ Dentist will start with the least invasive treatment. They wouldn’t start with a full-mouth reconstruction unless it was a serious and obvious problem where that was the only solution.

Best of luck to you! Hopefully, it’s a simple solution.

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