We all know that too many people with temporomandibular joint disorders (called TMJ or TMD) don’t get adequate care. Between people dismissing their own symptoms, being ignored by their doctor, or getting misdiagnosed for their condition, it’s very hard for people to get proper care for their TMJ.
For years, researchers have been studying the problem, and earlier this year, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) published recommendations that they hope will improve the state of TMJ treatment in the US. Here’s a summary of their recommendations.
TMJ Treatment Should Be a Dental Specialty
Currently, the American Dental Association only recognizes 9 dental specialties. However, many common and growing areas of dentistry–such as cosmetic dentistry, implant dentistry, and, yes, TMJ treatment–aren’t recognized dental specialties. This means that dentists don’t have a good way to obtain expertise or demonstrate their expertise in these fields, leading to more people receiving care from dentists who might not be fully qualified in care.
NASEM recommends instituting a new dental specialty for TMJ/TMD care. This would not only give dental patients the ability to choose a specialist in this area, it would encourage more research into best practices so that dentists could learn these in a more uniform manner.
Integrate Education and Training
Doctors and dentists have different views of TMJ, because they are taught different things about it. This can make it hard for doctors to diagnose or even suspect TMJ in their patients, which means they don’t refer them for proper care and are more likely to misdiagnose their patients.
Creating a more integrated approach to education and training about TMJ would help bring doctors and dentists closer together so they could provide more uniform care and work together better in a team.
One of the problems for people seeking TMJ treatment is that they don’t know whether their insurance will cover it. Medical insurance might cover some parts of TMJ treatment, but it’s not usually covered under dental insurance. Creating a more uniform approach to reimbursing doctors and dentists for TMJ treatment would help people afford the care they need and make it easier for dentists to provide this care.
Of course, while great strides have been made in our understanding of TMJ, there is still much more to learn. NASEM pointed out that while the NIH spent $605 million on pain research in 2018, TMJ research accounted for just over 2% of that total, at $14 million. The country needs to expand its commitment to TMJ research if we are to really get a handle on this mysterious pain condition.
Looking for TMJ Treatment in Anchorage?
Although we agree that more can be done in this area, we also know that we are very successful at treating TMJ at our practice. We can help our patients achieve relief from symptoms like jaw pain without surgery. Often relief is immediate.