TemporomandibularJoint Exam Refresher

February 13, 2018 Lee Ann Brady DMD

The comprehensive exam sets the stage for the quality of your dentistry. The information you gather is instrumental in guiding your treatment plan, getting to know your patient, and helping you effectively relieve pain or discomfort.

The temporomandibular joint is one of the 4 exam areas that comprise a comprehensive functional exam. Ascertaining where we believe the disc is relative to the condyle and whether or not we detect the presence of inflammation are the goals. We want to understand if the joint is stable, adapted or currently undergoing breakdown.

Refresh Your Joint Exam Technique

A good place to start is with lateral pole location. While the patient is lying back, place three fingers lightly in the lateral pole region. Then have them open and close. As they are opening and closing, locate the lateral poles. Observe and record palpable joint noise sounds and motion. Make sure you are documenting your findings clearly throughout the process.

You should also reference maxillary midline to mandibular midline and record opening and closing deviations from the midline. There is so much that can be learned from this basic exam protocol.

Next, move on to joint auscultation in translation and excursions. Using your stethoscope to listen, you can direct the patient to again open and close without touching, as well as move their jaw excursively. You’ll verify palpable sounds and listen to both rotation and translation…

What do you consider critical elements of a joint and muscle exam? 

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About Author

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Lee Ann Brady DMD

Dr. Lee Ann Brady is passionate about dentistry, her family and making a difference. She is a general dentist and owns a practice in Glendale, AZ limited to restorative dentistry. Lee’s passion for dental education began as a CE junkie herself, pursuing lots of advanced continuing education focused on Restorative and Occlusion. In 2005, she became a full time resident faculty member for The Pankey Institute, and was promoted to Clinical Director in 2006. Lee joined Spear Education as Executive VP of Education in the fall of 2008 to teach and coordinate the educational curriculum. In June of 2011, she left Spear Education, founded leeannbrady.com and joined the dental practice she now owns as an associate. Today, she teaches at dental meetings and study clubs both nationally and internationally, continues to write for dental journals and her website, sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry, Inside Dentistry and DentalTown Magazines and is the Director of Education for The Pankey Institute.

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