For the nearly 25 percent of people around the globe who suffer from the debilitating disorder known as temporomandibular jaw disorder, or TMD, finding relief can become an all-consuming effort. Temporomandibular joint disorder is a condition of the temporomandibular joint of the jaw, which causes jaw pain, stiffness, difficulty speaking and chewing, tinnitus, neck and back pain, and even migraine headaches.
Treating this condition has up until now proven somewhat tricky. Techniques like neuromuscular dentistry are extremely beneficial, but finding a practitioner of this nuanced field of dentistry is not always easy. But now, a new procedure that is currently being tested on animal subjects may offer hope for the most severe cases of TMD.
The procedure is known as an allogenic tissue implant, meaning it takes tissue – in this case rib tissue – from a human subject other than the patient, and transplants that tissue into the temporomandibular joint to “tissue-engineer” jaw disc cartilage.
Dr. Alexandra George is a neuromuscular dentist practicing in Wexford, Pennsylvania. She treats patients with varying degrees of TMD pain and believes this procedure could eventually be hugely beneficial to some of the more severe cases of TMD.
“Basically, they’re using the allogenic tissue to help the patient grow new cartilage in the temporomandibular joint,” George says. But she also cautions that this procedure won’t be for everyone.
“Everyone is different, so naturally every case of TMD is different,” George says. “Some patients may not require or want such an invasive procedure. For them, neuromuscular dentistry is still the best solution. But for those patients who cannot find relief even with the advanced techniques of neuromuscular dentistry, this procedure sounds very promising.”
The procedure is still not quite ready to be offered to humans. The next step will be more animal tests before trying it on human patients, and then hopefully it can be offered to TMD sufferers around the world.
For now, George says the best bet for patients suffering from TMD is still neuromuscular dentistry.
“Neuromuscular dentistry can ease a lot of the pain associated with TMD by realigning the jaw and bite,” she says. “For some patients that’s all it takes, but even for more severe cases, they should still be able to find some relief in the interim.”