Joint Vibration Analysis: A Simple & Quick Way To Diagnose TMD
Biological dentistry takes a minimally invasive approach, where the best dentistry is the least dentistry. That’s why prevention is key – and also why it’s crucial to find the source of any disease or dysfunction as soon as possible.
This is certainly true for dysfunction in the temporomandibular joints (TMJ), those all-important hinges that open and close your jaw. When your TMJ is overused or damaged and your bite is off, the symptoms can be pretty severe.
Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) can lead to neck, back, jaw, or face pain; ringing in your ears and popping in your jaw joints; headaches and migraines; sensitive teeth; and receding gums. It may also raise your risk of sleep apnea, as well as change your posture in ways that contribute to back pain and other systemic health issues.
Because so many TMD symptoms can seem to have nothing to do with your bite, patients can struggle for years to find answers. Even when you suspect TMD, diagnosis can range from the somewhat subjective – a dentist listening or touching the joints as you open and close your jaw – to more costly procedures such as MRIs or CT scans.
But there’s an underused tool that is excellent for detecting TMD, sometimes even before the patient notices any symptoms: Joint Vibrational Analysis (JVA), which we use right here in our Edmonds office.
JVA works on a simple premise. If your bite is off, even by a slight amount, there’s going to be friction. Where’s there’s friction, there’s vibration. By placing sensors on your TM joints, then having you open and close your mouth, we can objectively measure joint vibrations to screen for TMD.
Current research supports the ease and accuracy of JVA as a screening tool. Case reports in a recent paper found JVA screenings confirmed by MRI, considered the “gold standard” in diagnosing TMD. Yet JVA is far quicker, far less expensive, and far more dynamic, giving results in real time. More, there are none of the risks that MRI involves.
JVA, the authors note, can also detect characteristic sounds of joint dysfunction “that are not conveniently detected or analyzed through any other method.”
A 2018 NIH-supported study looked into the reliability of JVA as a screening tool and the ease and accuracy of TMD diagnosis.
The excellent reliability obtained by the examiners reading the JVA data demonstrates that examiners can be properly trained and they can reliably identify and interpret the pertinent data produced by this technological device. In addition, the assessment of the joint vibration as phenomena can be reliably assessed within a short period of time.
Even more exciting evidence came from this study in which researchers focused on using JVA to assess healthy young people with a full set of teeth and no TMD symptoms. The goal was to examine whether JVA could detect “early or latent dysfunction.”
Sure enough, JVA was able to detect vibrations in participants with early stage TMD – dysfunction that would otherwise have gone undetected until much later, after symptoms worsened or emerged during dental treatment.
Know, too, that while TMD can seem like a condition for adults – and more commonly occurring in women – children can have it, too. Having a detection tool like JVA is invaluable, especially considering the alternative – waiting until the pain or popping of TMD rears its ugly head.