Frequently Asked Questions
Table of Contents:
1. How can I tell if my jaw problem is serious enough to seek treatment?
2. My jaw pops and clicks. Is this a serious problem?
3. My doctor has recommended that my jaw be evaluated, but I am not having pain in my jaw or head. Do I need to be seen for an examination?
4. Are there things I can do on my own to help my jaw symptoms?
5. What is the standard treatment for a jaw problem?
6. How much does jaw treatment cost?
7. Does insurance pay for jaw treatment?
8. What does an examination appointment involve?
9. My doctor has referred me to you. Will they receive the results of my examination?
10. Do I need to be referred by my dentist or physician to be seen in your office?
11. Is wearing a store-bought or non-custom mouth guard a bad idea?
Some typical symptoms involving the jaw may include pain, jaw restriction or stiffness, locking of the jaw, frequent headaches or neck pain associated with the jaw, tooth pain in healthy teeth, a mis-alignment of the jaw, bite problems, difficulty chewing, a grinding noise in the ears or jaw joint, or ear pain that has been shown to not be due to an ear infection. You may also need evaluation if you are unable to control harmful jaw habits, such as clenching or grinding of the teeth. In addition, facial pain that has been shown to be unrelated to dental or ENT problems also warrants further evaluation.
Clicking or popping in the jaw is very common. Studies have shown that 30% of the general population has a history of this condition. For the vast majority, it is not a sign of a serious problem in the jaw, and will not lead to more serious problems later in life. It can obviously be an annoyance, and can even be embarrassing when eating with others. While it may go on for several years, it generally does not last throughout life.
Clicking or popping IS a concern if it is associated with any of the following:
- Catching or locking of the jaw
- Jaw restriction
- A change in how the teeth fit together
- Grinding or gravel-like sounds in the jaw
If you have any of these five associated symptoms you should be evaluated.
My doctor has recommended that my jaw be evaluated, but I am not having pain in my jaw or head. Do I need to be seen for an examination?
We see many patients for problems besides pain relief. These may include jaw restriction or tightness, a change in the alignment of the jaw or bite, catching or locking in the jaw, difficulty chewing, or clenching and grinding the teeth.
We believe in patients doing all they can to resolve their symptoms (please see The Keys to Success on our site). However, there are some jaw conditions that definitely require treatment by a qualified doctor. In most cases, a thorough examination is required to determine how serious the condition is. Even if treatment by a doctor is necessary, active involvement of the patient is critical to a successful outcome.
There are a great variety of causes of these symptoms. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to recommend the same treatment to every patient. Dr. Guinn recommends the minimum treatment necessary to insure lasting relief. Common treatment modalities may include a jaw splint, physical therapy, a brief course of an anti-inflammatory or a mild muscle relaxant, and instruction in avoidance of harmful habits. Patients with bone loss in their jaw may be referred for blood tests to determine if there is a hormone or mineral imbalance. In addition, appropriate supplements are recommended to help arrest the bone loss. Additional treatment options are discussed here.
Because no two patients have exactly the same problems, we do not charge the same fee for every patient. It would therefore not be possible to quote a total treatment fee prior to evaluating a patient. However, our patients are given a fee estimate after the exam, and before treatment begins. The fees are commensurate with the level of complexity of the patient’s problems and the length of required treatment.
The short answer to this question is “probably not.” Very few dental or medical insurance companies cover jaw problems. Most insurance companies have an exclusion clause which rules out benefits for jaw problems. Therefore, Dr. Guinn is not a provider on any insurance plans.
Dr. Guinn has no relationship with any insurance company. Treatment in our office cannot be performed contingent on insurance reimbursement. Medical or dental Insurance is a contract between the patient and their insurance company. We will provide claim forms for most types of insurance if you believe you have coverage.
Because there can be so many causes responsible for problems within the jaw and related structures, a thorough evaluation is required. This includes a comprehensive health and symptom questionnaire completed prior to the exam, a cat scan (CT) of the jaws and facial structures, an interview with the doctor, a thorough examination of the head, neck, and jaws, and a consultation with the doctor to discuss the diagnosis, causes, and treatment plan. This is also a time for the patient to have all their questions addressed. We therefore encourage the spouse or parent to attend this appointment. Generally, the first two appointments in our office are over an hour in length. Please plan for this accordingly.
Dr. Guinn dictates a comprehensive report about the patient following the examination appointment. This report is sent to the patient, their referring doctor, as well as to anyone Dr. Guinn refers the patient to as part of recommended treatment.
Ninety percent of our patients are referred to us by their dentist, physician, orthodontist, ENT physician, or other medical specialist. However, a referral is not required, and we welcome all who seek treatment for jaw-related symptoms.
Jaw Splints or bite guards can help in many ways, depending on how they are designed. These functions include:
- Reduce clenching or grinding of the teeth.
- Prevent damage to the teeth.
- Reduce jaw muscle pain and tightness.
- Prevent over-loading of the jaw joints.
- Neutralize the harmful effects of a bad bite relationship.
- Reduce tension headaches.
- Reduce swelling and pain in jaw joints.
- Prevent catching or locking in the jaw.
- Reduce the nervous input to the muscles from the brain.
No one device can perform all of the above functions. The device should be designed based on what the diagnosis is, following an examination.
Store-bought or non-customized devices that some dentists utilize usually fail to provide any of the above benefits. This is because they are typically made out of a rubbery material that does not follow the principles of what makes a healthy bite relationship. These devices may actually increase muscle tension in the jaw, because the subconscious brain is convinced that there is something chewy between the teeth that needs to be chewed up. In addition, if these non-custom devices are worn too long (more than a few weeks), they can actually make the bite relationship worse, by permanently moving the teeth.
The bottom line: Custom bite guards and jaw splints are expensive, because of the time required to fabricate and customize them. But the dollar savings from a store-bought or non-custom device rarely provides the benefits of a custom device, and may actually make the problem worse.