We try to do everything we can to help people get relief from temporomandibular joint disorders (called TMJ or TMD) without surgery. That’s because the current surgical options are bad. They have high complication rates and low success rates. So we try to help everyone we can with minimally invasive treatment options. But what about the people who seek treatment too late to benefit from noninvasive approaches?

Well, it may soon be possible to help these people with a surgical treatment that will give them good results, thanks to pioneering work by tissue engineers.

A Better Replacement Disc

Last year, researchers reported that they grew new replacement discs for the temporomandibular joint of pigs. They used rib cartilage from the pigs and stimulated it using a self-assembling technique. When they had built the new replacement disc, they surgically inserted it into the jaw of a different pig.

Within two months, the pigs who got the replacement discs had fully functional jaws and no symptoms of TMJ. However, the pigs who didn’t get replacement discs continued to suffer degeneration of their jaw joints, and by that time they had serious osteoarthritis.

The hope is that this disc made of natural tissue would not only perform better, but would have lower risk of complications. Replacing just the cushioning disc rather than the entire joint should reduce surgical complications. And if the disc breaks down, the use of natural tissue means that we wouldn’t end up with toxic fragments that could enter the brain, as happened with some previous artificial materials.

Apparently, the process is making steps towards FDA approval, too. The researchers that developed the technique say that they’ve been approached by the agency about creating a pipeline to introduce new TMJ products and treatments to the market. They want to help develop that pipeline, which may also bring their process into common use.

Nonsurgical Treatment Is Still Best

However, the procedure for tissue engineering is still a long way from demonstrating success that would warrant approval from the FDA. Animal testing is still progressing, and once animal testing completes, there will still neeed to be several rounds of human trials. The process will likely take several years.

In the meantime, we want to try to avoid surgical treatment of your TMJ. This means trying to address TMJ early with the most noninvasive treatments that are effective. At Collins Dentistry & Aesthetics, we offer many noninvasive treatment options using neuromuscular dentistry.

For some people, periodic relaxation of the jaw muscles using TENS is enough to resolve symptoms and prevent jaw joint damage. However, for most people, an orthotic bite splint is required. This bite guard helps hold the jaw in a position that reduces muscle stress and jaw joint strain. You might start out wearing the orthotic all day, but, eventually, you might be able to wear it only at night, and maybe not even every night.

If you are experiencing TMJ symptoms, it’s best to get treatment early before the condition develops to the point that only surgery can address the problem. To learn more about nonsurgical TMJ treatment in Spokane, please call (509) 581-4188 today for an appointment with a TMJ dentist at Collins Dentistry & Aesthetics.