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TENS Unit Therapies

Trismus or locked jaws can be caused by a variety of events or even predispositions to the jaw joints not functioning properly (disproportionate jaws, ortho issues, trauma, bite changes caused by common dentistry, sports activities, etc).

TENS Unit TMJ Jaw Muscles
Myotronics BNS-40 TENS Unit
Jaws can lock fully or partially in nearly any position... open or closed.

In terms of basic physics and human anatomy, a disc within the tmj joint typically becomes displaced and is not allowing the jaw its full range of motion.

Conceptually, it is like getting something stuck in the hinge of a door, it does not allow it to move correctly.

TMJ symptoms that include noisy joints, clicking, rubbing, ear pain, ear congestion, vertigo, headaches, joint pain, head-neck pain oftentimes have symptom and treatment needs that are similar for treating lockjaw. The focus is upon the immediate tmj area where the jaws pivot, slide and rotate.

Treatment of Symptom for Treatment of Cause

For patients with significant histories of tmj and lockjaw symptoms who are seeking definitive treatment, a TENS Unit (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator) is typically used by Neuromuscular Dentists (aka TMJ Dentists) to initiate treatment.

TENS Unit Bio-Research TMJ
Quadra TENS Device
Electrodes are applied close to the TMJ joints (usually in front of the ear), to deliver a pulsating electrical stimulus to the affected area. The mild pulsations cause the jaw joint muscles to cyclically contract, which eventually decompresses the joints and relaxes the muscles.

The amount of stimulus is usually controlled by the patient and is very comfortable.

Within several minutes, the tmj joint muscles will relax to an extent that the jaws will begin to operate more normally. For patients with extreme difficulties, take home units are prescribed.

Temporary Pivot Splints

In extreme cases a custom splint might be necessary. A pivot splint is a temporary device that uses a rocking motion to help center the discs. This should be used only for about two weeks at most.

Any acute disc situation should be handled with TENS and manual manipulation as well. After the disk is captured, an anatomic positioning orthotic may be fabricated after the patient demonstrates a better range of motion.

Myotronics makes a take home device called the BNS-40 that we prescribe for our tmj, headache pain and lockjaw patients. Another popular brand used by Neuromuscular practitioners is the BioResearch Quadra Tens, which operates similarly.

After the range of motion increases impressions are taken to create a custom orthotic appliance that helps posture the lower jaw into a more comfortable position to help the joint heal.

Patients considering Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator (TENS) devices for home use in treating a variety of neuromuscular dentistry treatment needs can consult with their dentists or physicians for assistance.

Ira D. Koeppel, D.D.S.
126 Gnarled Hollow Road
East Setauket Long Island, NY 11733
(631) 689-9777

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