Dental professionals typically have had minimal exposure to the benefits that can derive from utilizing physical therapy and other forms of physical medicine as an adjunct to dental treatments in the management of temporomandibular disorders.
It is important to recognize two distinct possible approaches to treatment of temporomandibular disorders, as well as all musculoskeletal pain/dysfunction. Because pain is most often what causes patients to seek treatment, arguably the most common approach to treatment of such disorders is to focus entirely on reduction of the pain symptoms. Therefore, when a clinician achieves a degree of symptomatic relief, whether it is a dentist or a physical therapist, they may consider their treatment to have been successful. However, with nearly all musculoskeletal disorders, regardless of where they may occur, the pain symptoms are typically not the problem but are an expression of underlying problems.
A more definitive approach to treatment addresses the underlying cause(s) of the symptoms in an attempt to restore more normal function, with the objective of minimizing the likelihood that the problem will chronically recur. This is true rehabilitation. Throughout this web site, all discussions of treatment have an underlying principal; the concept that rehabilitative treatment is preferable to treatment that is simply focused on symptomatic relief.
Experience and the literature has clearly shown that effective treatment for patients with Temporomandibular Disorders provided by a knowledgeable dentist, that is then combined with expert physical medicine, with that interdisciplinary approach focused on the restoration of physiologic function and homeostasis within the masticatory system, is more likely to produce more long-term, predictable and optimum results than either of these alone. We strongly encourage dentists treating Temporomandibular Disorders to develop a professional working relationship with a physical therapist or other manual therapist who is experienced in the management of Temporomandibular Disorders.
The opposite would also obviously be true for physical therapists and other manual therapists; find a knowledgeable dentist and work closely with him/her in a true interdisciplinary manner.