Temporal Summation, Central Sensitization, and TMJ

Boutique Dentistry for Nashville, Tennessee

One of the current explanations for why people with TMJ have such a hard time getting good treatment is that the problem isn’t with the temporomandibular joint, but, rather, with the brain. Some people have proposed that TMJ is actually a problem of central sensitization, in which the brain becomes more sensitive to pain in some individuals.

It’s likely that not all TMJ is the result of central sensitization, and for many people, we can head off that issue, if we act quickly.

And, of course, one major problem many people face in getting successful TMJ is finding a qualified expert to treat their condition. In Nashville, TN, TMJ dentist Dr. Kent E. White has the training and experience to treat TMJ, and he can help many people achieve relief before they develop sensitization.

Central Sensitization Can Link TMJ to Other Chronic Pain

One of the benefits of the central sensitization model is that it explains the links between TMJ and other chronic pain conditions.

People with TMJ are more likely to experience many other different chronic pain conditions that are hard to explain. These include migraine, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). There are some suggestions that TMJ may cause these other pain conditions, although they may also be linked by an as-yet-unknown common cause. But temporal summation explains how TMJ can lead to these other chronic pain conditions.

Temporal Summation and Central Sensitization

In central sensitization, the brain becomes more sensitive to pain. Mild pains seem more serious. Even nonpainful sensations can become perceived as pain. How does the brain become sensitive to pain?

One of the emerging models of this process is the temporal summation model. In this model, the brain develops sensitization to pain over time. With constant repetition of painful experiences, these experiences get magnified in their perceived painfulness, even if the pain itself is not increasing.

TMJ can potentially lead to this problem because the pain from TMJ can occur repeatedly over time. Every time you use your jaw for eating, talking, or swallowing, the painful sensation is repeated. With jaw muscles that are unable to find a comfortable rest position, the pain can even be constant. As a result, TMJ can lead to a development of central sensitization, which may affect the entire body, leading to multiple chronic pain conditions.

Early Treatment Can Help Avoid Sensitization

If the temporal sensitization model is accurate, then the sooner we treat TMJ, the better. Once central sensitization sets in, we can’t be sure that we’ll be able to treat it. Treatments for central sensitization are less successful than treatments for primary TMJ.

If you are looking for treatment for TMJ and want to get treatment now, before the condition worsens, please call (615) 383-6787 today for an appointment with Dr. White at the Center for Advanced Dentistry.