Temporomandibular joint disorder, more commonly referred to as TMJ, is notoriously difficult to both treat and diagnose. Symptoms vary widely among patients, and severity can range from mild to debilitating. While common symptoms can include jaw pain, difficulties chewing, and popping or clicking noises when moving the jaw, other common symptoms like tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or vertigo can sometimes confuse patients. Couple this with the difficulty researchers have had identifying one specific cause of TMJ, and treatment becomes even more difficult.
A recent study, however, seems to offer those suffering hope. Conducted at the University of California, Irvine, researchers developed a new treatment method that sounds straight out of science fiction: using animal cells to grow cartilage.
Can This Method Become a TMJ Treatment Standard?
The method researchers used involved extracting tissue from the rib of one animal, separating cartilage cells, and using those cells to grow replacement cartilage that can be implanted into an animal. Because the immune systems isn’t activated by cartilage as it does other tissue or objects, this transplant is possible. When this experiment was tested on miniature pigs, it alleviated many of the defects caused by TMJ, and the control pigs which didn’t receive treatment, experienced continued degradation of their jaw.
What’s exciting about this development is that not only is it the first time this method has been shown to be effective at repairing the temporomandibular joint, it’s the first time it’s shown to be effective repairing any joint. Further application of this method could be applied to shoulders, knees, and hips.
When Will This Be Available?
Unfortunately, this treatment is still in its early phases. Animal clinical trials often take years before they become human clinical trials, and human clinical trials generally have four phases before becoming approved by the FDA. Then, a considerable amount of work must be done by manufactures and insurance carries. The short answer is that even if this treatment is fast-tracked, it could take nearly ten years. For the many patients currently suffering from TMJ, this is much too long.
Get TMJ Treatment Now
Even though the newest sci-fi treatments aren’t yet available, that’s not to say that you as a patient have no options. Several treatments are available that are time-tested, safe, and effective. Many of them are even drug-free. If you’ve been suffering from TMJ for awhile, then it may be time to seek a neuromuscular dentist. This branch of dentistry treats TMJ pain holistically, with the help of your own body.
After you schedule an appointment, your dentist can begin developing a specific treatment plan designed to treat the root of of your TMJ is most important. Many plans begin with a TENs unit, which emits a mild electrical pulse to the jaw muscle that relaxes them. Then, your dentist may suggest a custom-made mouth splint that helps your jaw recover while avoiding further damage.
If you are in the Westchester County, New York area and believe you may be suffering from symptoms caused by TMJ, please contact experienced neuromuscular dentist Dr. George Sepiashvili for an initial TMJ consultation.