#56 “How Come No One Ever Told Me About This Before?” (Part 4)

This is the fourth in a series of articles designed to answer the most common question asked by our patients after years or even decades of suffering life altering TMD/TMJ symptoms.  We often hear, “How come no one ever told me about this before?”  This question is often mirrored by their statement, “The only thing I regret is not knowing about this device and protocol much sooner.”

This article will focus on hospitals and large corporate health care groups and their disinterest in this highly prevalent health care problem.

The stated purpose of hospitals and large corporate health care groups is to provide the infrastructure and organization necessary to bring all the components of servicing the health care needs of the public.  In some cases, they do a commendable job and sometimes they don’t.  When it comes to servicing the needs of patients with TMD/TMJ they don’t.

Let’s use the example of a patient who presents to the emergency department of a major hospital with a history of a debilitating headache that has lasted for 24 hours.  This is a common scenario shared by many of our current and former patients diagnosed with TMD/TMJ.  They tell us that the ER doctors takes a history and orders blood work and sometimes an MRI or CT scan of the head.  When the studies return as normal the ER physician states the headaches are nothing to worry about and usually writes a prescription for pain medications.  He may tell the patients they may want to follow up with their PCP (primary Care Physician).

That’s it, except for a large bill that is usually submitted to an insurance company with a significant portion the responsibility of the patient.

No consideration was given to the fact that a very large portion of headaches are due to TMD/TMJ.  Hospital emergency departments do not have TMD/TMJ on their radar screens.  Whether it is an independent hospital or a hospital that is a member of a large corporate chain, the experience is consistently similar.

It is consistently similar because hospitals have no incentive to think about the most simple cause of a problem.  Their job is to review the most serious causes on the differential diagnosis and make sure none of those are overlooked.  Once they are sure they have not overlooked a life-threatening problem, they figuratively and practically wash their hands of it.  I have personally had four TMD/TMJ patients tell me about trips to the emergency room with arm and chest pain so severe they thought they were having a heart attack.  After a complete and thorough exam and work-up for heart attack, each of these patients was told to go home because they definitely had no heart problems.  Upper arm and chest pain is one of the lesser known, but very common symptoms of TMD/TMJ.  You can imagine the size of the bill each of these patients received from the hospital.

A similar scenario occurs when a patient with TMD/TMJ presents to a large medical group of organized physicians and specialists. Whether the patient’s symptoms are frequent of recurrent headaches, ear pain, neck pain, tinnitus, subjective hearing loss, vertigo, upper back and shoulder pain, or arm/hand/finger tingling/numbness/ and pain, the patient is shuttled from provider to provider in the health care system ruling out all the diseases possible except for TMD/TMJ.  Sometimes the patient is stuck in the system for months or even years until some enlightened doctor presses on the jaw joint and finds out that it is inflamed.

At that point they are finally directed to a dentist.  I will cover what happens when they arrive at the dental office in Part 7 in this series. (Spoiler alert: The results are usually inappropriate).

Hospitals and large medical groups have little to no incentive to be on the lookout for TMD/TMJ.  Since they do not treat the problem, they have no incentive to learn how to diagnose the problem.

Our team at TMJ Services of Brentwood acknowledge that making the medical community aware of TMD/TMJ and the simple way to distinguish it from other major medical problems is the challenge.  We have met the challenge by applying our proprietary awareness program throughout Middle Tennessee and currently have over 400 physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants routinely diagnose TMD/TMJ correctly and refer to our practice for care.

If you think your symptoms may be related to TMD/TMJ schedule a consultation with Dr. Urbanek or Dr. Urbina.  We can rule in or rule out TMD/TMJ with a simple x-ray, history, and examination.  If you have the problem, we know how to make the symptoms go away.  It’s not complicated.