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We Listen and Relieve Your Pain

Dr. Jennifer Stafford

Welcome

Welcome to Bite Align, where Dr. Jennifer Stafford helps people experiencing the symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorders (called TMJ or TMD). 

Dr. Stafford understands your struggle. She experienced regular headaches and facial pain. Dentists, neurologists, and physicians told her the pain was caused by stress and not treatable. She lived with her pain for years. Then she learned a new approach to treating TMJ pain from her mentor. This approach worked for her, and she has used it to help numerous patients who were misdiagnosed or told they couldn’t get relief. 

She wants you to have hope: relief is possible when you find the right treatment. We start with a detailed diagnosis so we can direct you to the best treatment for your condition.

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What Is TMJ/TMD?

It’s important to understand that temporomandibular joint disorders are not a single disease. TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint.  Everyone has two TMJ’s, which are located in front of your ears.  TMD stands for temporomandibular disorders. It is very common to hear the term TMJ instead of TMD used to describe the symptoms from dysfunction.  These symptoms can actually come from several closely related conditions.

It’s possible to have one, two, or three types of TMJ. One type is arthritis of the jaw joint when the joint begins to break down. This is most likely to cause specific jaw-related symptoms. The second is a displaced disc. This is when the cartilage disc that is supposed to cushion the jaw joint slips out of place and often leads to popping of the jaw joint and irregular motion. The third type includes problems with the jaw muscles, such as tension and pain which causes pain in the jaw, face, head, and neck. It’s also more likely to lead to widespread symptoms.

TMJ is commonly misdiagnosed by doctors, who have only passing familiarity with the condition. The wide range of symptoms linked to the condition also make it hard to diagnose.

Most patients experience some degree of immediate relief. Symptoms may recur until we fit you with a long-term treatment. Then it can take several weeks before you reach maximum improvement.

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TMJ Headache Screening Tool

Many things could be causing your headaches. How do you know if temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ/TMD) is to blame? One way is to check whether you have other symptoms commonly found in TMJ. 

Check all the symptoms you have below, and we’ll let you know if TMJ is a potential cause of your headaches. Of course, we won’t know for sure until we perform a full exam in our office.

The Right Diagnosis for the Right Treatment

Most of our patients have been seeing doctors about their symptoms for years. They have been diagnosed with multiple conditions and have tried several different treatments in search of relief. We want to stop this cycle and help you finally find relief. That starts with a proper diagnosis.

We diagnose TMJ using a combination of approaches.

First, we will ask you about your medical history, including when your pain started and how it has changed over time.

Next, we will perform a physical exam. This will involve feeling the muscles of your head and neck. Dr. Stafford will ask you questions and ask you to move certain ways so she can feel the motion of your muscles. You will also describe any pain you feel.

Finally, we will take detailed, objective measurements to help us diagnose your condition scientifically. We will measure the motion of your jaw, listen to and record your jaw sounds, and measure the tension in your jaw muscles. Usually, we also relax your jaw muscles using TENS, a kind of electric massage. This helps relieve symptoms, but it also tells us how your jaw moves when your muscles are relaxed. Depending on our findings, we might also recommend scans like MRI or CT.

Based on all this information, we can give you a precise diagnosis and tell you whether you will benefit from treatment at our practice.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition that commonly affects people with TMJ. In sleep apnea, your breathing stops for extended periods while you sleep, usually because your airway collapses. This causes an oxygen shortage and forces your brain to awaken partially to restore breathing. This can happen hundreds of times a night, even though you might not know it.

Because sleep apnea interferes with your sleep and causes periodic oxygen shortages, it is a potentially deadly condition. People with sleep apnea are more likely to develop serious medical issues including heart related problems, dementia, and cancer. People with untreated sleep apnea are more likely to die young from these conditions. 

Fortunately, treatment for sleep apnea is available, and it can be successful. Unfortunately, the most common treatment recommended by doctors, CPAP, is uncomfortable and most people stop using it. We offer oral appliance therapy, a more comfortable treatment alternative that is just as effective.

Almost everyone can get oral appliance therapy. If you have mild or moderate sleep apnea, you can get oral appliance therapy first. For severe sleep apnea, you might have to try CPAP first.

Yes! Oral appliance therapy is a recognized treatment for sleep apnea. It is covered by most insurance plans as a frontline or secondary treatment.

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Harvard Sleep Quiz

A sleep test is the only way to accurately diagnose sleep apnea. However, the quiz below can help you determine if you need to talk to your doctor or a sleep dentist about sleep apnea.

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Bite Align is a part of BKS Dental – a full-service dental office in Fort Atkinson, WI. At BKS Dental, patients can get treatment for all of their different needs. This includes everything from preventive and family dentistry to cosmetic and restorative dentistry. We offer the treatments patients need to achieve a beautiful and healthy smile for life.