Take a Bite Out of TMD

Orthodontics relieves more than 40 years of head, neck pain.

Massachusetts native Nancy Hintlian has never had a fear of dentists. Good thing, too, because the now-retired school teacher and yoga instructor has had to deal with more than her share oTake a Bite Out of TMDf them across her 68 years.

Photo courtesy of Nancy Hintlian.

Nancy’s issues with TMD are finally a thing of the past.

In addition to seeing dentists regularly for routine checkups and maintenance, Nancy has spent a lot of time in the care of dental specialists, most of whom tried in vain to erase the head and neck pain caused by her bout with temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD.
“I’ve had TMD since I was about twenty-two,” Nancy relates. “I didn’t know that at the time, but I was having these horrible, severe headaches. They were so bad that I thought I had a brain tumor. But the doctor I went to see told me the problem was an orthodontic thing.
“That doctor sent me to a dental specialist who told me the problem was that my wisdom teeth had grown into my head and sinuses, and I also had TMD that had not been treated. He said the TMD was what was causing all of the headaches.”
Temporomandibular disorders occur when the jaw joint, which is the hinge that connects the jawbone to the temporal bones on each side of the skull, does not move either up or down or from side to side properly when a person speaks, eats or yawns.
TMD is sometimes the result of an injury to the jaw or the muscles in a person’s head or neck, but it can also develop naturally. In all cases, TMD disorders can be the cause of mild to severe pain in the face and jaw as well as the kind of headaches Nancy experienced.
In some of the more severe cases, the jaw can even become locked in the open or closed position. A clicking sound coming from the jawbone is sometimes associated with the dysfunction of the temporomandibular joints as well.
Doctors emphasize that none of the symptoms associated with TMD are considered life-threatening. Nancy, however, can attest to the fact that TMD can indeed take a healthy bite out of someone’s quality of life.
“It has been a longstanding problem for me, even though it was treated many years ago,” Nancy explains. “I was given a bite plate, which is like a retainer, and I was told to do some exercises, but none of that really worked.
“I was never really comfortable, whether I had my retainer in or not, and over time, I developed a huge slide in my jaw that you could actually see when I spoke. When I opened my mouth to speak or eat, my jaw would actually slide to one side.”
Having lived with the problem for more than 40 years, Nancy thought her TMD was irreparable. She found out differently after she moved to Florida a few years ago and chose Naved Fatmi, DMD, of Regency Court Dentistry as her new dentist.

Puzzle Pieces

“I was seeing Dr. Fatmi at first for routine checkups and cleanings,” Nancy relates. “It was during one of those visits that I explained to him that something has always felt a bit off, that I always had this head and neck pain. That’s when he explained to me that the problem was that my bite was off.”
In a properly structured mouth, the teeth fit together like a puzzle, meaning they easily come together when the mouth is closed, and the top teeth rest on the bottom. In Nancy’s case, her teeth were not coming together the way they should.
That was causing her jaw to slide, but because the jaw could not find a natural resting place, the muscles in her face and jaw were constantly tightening and contracting. The result was the neck pain and the headaches she had been experiencing.
The approach Dr. Fatmi took to correct the problem was somewhat unique. Though most people associate them as a tool used to correct crooked teeth, Dr. Fatmi used Invisalign® clear braces to correct Nancy’s bite and relieve her of her aches and pain.
“The majority of people think that orthodontics is strictly an aesthetic procedure,” Dr. Fatmi educates. “But that is totally wrong. I do a lot of cases where I use the Invisalign clear braces to help treat pain-related issues.
“There are a lot of people who wake up in pain or develop that pain while they’re at work because they clench their teeth or their bite is off. That’s not an aesthetics thing, but by using Invisalign, we can help them get rid of that pain.”

40 Years of Pain Gone

Unlike metal braces, Invisalign aligners contain no metal. They are made of BPA-free, non-irritating plastic and look a lot like teeth whitening trays. They are custom fitted and by wearing a series of trays, the teeth slowly move back into their proper place.
Nancy began her Invisalign treatments in late December of 2016. She went through two trays in the first month, which is typical, and by the end of that first month, she was already noticing a decrease in pain and discomfort and a reduction in her headaches.
“The Invisalign trays are a lot like the retainer I used years ago that never worked and never really fit right,” Nancy discloses. “But these worked. I had one for my top teeth and one for the bottom, and I changed them out about every two weeks.

“The majority of people think that orthodontics is strictly an aesthetic procedure. But that is totally wrong. I do a lot of cases where I use the Invisalign clear braces to help treat pain-related issues.” – Dr. Fatmi.

“Some of the trays were used to move my teeth, and some of them were for stability so the teeth wouldn’t move back to where they were. And for me, the aesthetic improvement I got from them was a bonus. The best part for me was that they fixed my bite.”
Correcting Nancy’s bite took about ten months, Dr. Fatmi confirms. In the months that followed, Dr. Fatmi went about the task of correcting some of Nancy’s other dental issues, including fitting her for a couple of crowns.
“We’re currently in the process of doing an implant on her, but we couldn’t have come to this level of dentistry without first correcting her bite and ridding her of her pain,” Dr. Fatmi asserts. “In some cases, you have to eliminate the source of the pain before you can start placing crowns and implants.
“Those types of procedures are indeed necessary, but with some patients, those things are not going to solve the bigger issue they have with their bite. In Nancy’s case, her bite was the problem that was causing her all of her head and neck pain.”
Nancy says she’s grateful that she found Dr. Fatmi and even more grateful that he found a way to finally rid her of the pain and discomfort she’d been experiencing most of her life. Her only regret is that she didn’t discover him sooner.
“When I finally told him about the problems I was having, he explained to me right away what the problem was and how he could fix it,” Nancy enthuses. “I’m obviously a big fan of his and of everyone else in his office as well.
“I’m not one of those people who fear going to the dentist, but they actually make that experience a pleasure. Everyone there is so pleasant and when someone is like that and they do a great job like they did with me, you want to give them credit.”

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    • Regency Court Dentistry

      Regency Court Dentistry understands the importance of maintaining the health of your smile. This is why they offer a number of comprehensive general health and restorative dentistry services. From regularly scheduled teeth cleanings and den... Read More

    • Naved Fatmi, DMD

      Naved Fatmi, DMD, received his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree from the University of Florida College of Dentistry in Gainesville. Dr. Fatmi is an adjunct professor at Palm Beach State College. He is a member of the American Dental Society, t... Read More