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How do I find a legitimate neuromuscular dentist?

I’ve had a teeth-grinding habit for as long as I can remember. It got to the point where I had crowns on all of my teeth by the time I was in my mid-twenties. But they weren’t placed correctly and I’ve ground them down, as well. The crowns didn’t look that great to begin with, but now they look even worse because they’re so flat. So obviously, I’d like to replace my crowns and make my teeth look better, but that’s only the beginning of my problems.

Years of grinding my teeth and wearing down my crowns have left me with a painful TMJ that clicks and an uneven bite, so I started visiting a so-called “neuromuscular dentist” for treatment with an orthotic device. As it turns out, he wasn’t a specialist like I thought he was, and the treatment didn’t help. If anything, it made my bite much worse as I now have an open bite and my crowns have worn down even more. I went to an orthodontist to see if braces could correct my bite, but he said I would need the help of a prosthodontist.

A woman in a yellow shirt smiles as she reclines on a white sofa. She is happy and free of TMJ pain because of seeing a qualified dentist for full-mouth reconstruction.
Freedom from TMJ pain is possible!

Right now, I’m trying to find the right doctor to help me because my case is so complicated. Should I see a cosmetic dentist who can make my teeth look better? Or start with a prosthodontist who can fix my bite?

I’ve gotten so many recommendations and I have no idea where to begin. After all the pain and disappointment I’ve experienced, I’m not even sure if I can trust anyone.

— Rhoda from Akron, OH

Dear Rhoda,

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged when trying to correct dental problems that you have struggled with for many years. It’s even worse when you’ve gone to multiple dentists for help only to have your hopes crushed.

Not all dentists who claim to treat TMJ problems are truly qualified to do so, which is something you personally and unfortunately experienced. On the other hand, dental specialists like prosthodontists who are capable of creating a balanced bite are not always concerned with providing the most esthetic finish.

So it’s understandable that you may feel torn between visiting two different dentists seeing as you need to accomplish two objectives.

That’s why seeing another neuromuscular dentist could actually be a step in the right direction for you. Your case does sound complex, and you will get the most comprehensive care in the hands of a dentist who has experience in full-mouth restoration and TMJ treatment.

But it’s clear from your last experience with a so-called “neuromuscular dentist” that he did not know what he was doing. There is not currently a recognized specialty for TMJ treatment or neuromuscular dentistry, so it can be a challenge to find a professional who is truly qualified.

However, there’s no need to choose between two different dental specialists, or to choose between function and appearance. A dentist with the proper training and experience in neurologic or physiologic dentistry and cosmetic dentistry can relieve your pain and restore your teeth at the same time with beautiful lifelike crowns.

The next step for you is to locate a dentist near you who truly knows what they are doing and is equally passionate about function and appearance. Start by searching for dentists in your area who advertise their expertise in TMJ treatment and can show proof of their cosmetic skills in an online smile gallery. For example, the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies is a respected post-graduate program that trains dentists in TMJ treatment and neuromuscular dentistry.

We hope this information helps you locate the right treatment provider, Rhoda.

This post was published on behalf of Owasso TMJ dentist Dr. Heng Lim.