P&S Journal: Fall 1997, Vol.17, No.3
Clinical Advances: By Devera Pine
Help for TMJ Disorders
An estimated 10 million Americans suffer from temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, a range of problems that affect the temporomandibular joint and the muscles and ligaments that surround it. TMJ disorders can cause pain--ranging from mild to severe--a limited ability to open the jaw, headaches, dizziness, and joint noises. Treatment ranges from simple measures, such as moist heat and a diet of soft food, to surgery. Yet until now people with TMJ disorders had no way to passively exercise their jaw to restore full mobility to the joint. Fortunately, a new device invented by two Columbia-Presbyterian experts can fill that void.
The E-Z Flex, developed and patented by Drs. Howard A. Israel and Steven B. Syrop, allows patients to slowly and painlessly increase the range of motion of their jaws. The device consists of a mouthpiece, a hand-held pump, and water-filled plastic tubing that connects the two. The mouthpiece rests gently on the patient's upper and lower teeth. When he or she squeezes the pump, it pushes the water in the tubing up to the mouthpiece, gently opening the mouthpiece and, thus, the patient's jaw to a preset distance. The patient has complete control over how long the jaw is opened; releasing the pump immediately--but gently--allows the mouth to close. Turning a dial on the hand pump increases or decreases the distance the mouthpiece will open, for a range of 15 millimeters to 45 millimeters.
The motion of the E-Z Flex does not strain jaw muscles. Instead, the passive exercise the device provides increases the amount of synovial fluid that moves over the cartilage in the jaw, nourishing the joint and helping to repair any injuries.
E-Z Flex is marketed by Fluid Motion Biotechnologies, a company formed by Drs. Israel and Syrop in 1993. Fluid Motion Biotechnologies was the first operating company to move into the Audubon Biomedical Science and Technology Park. Edward C. Meyers, president and CEO of the company, has helped extend its product line beyond the original E-Z Flex design. For instance, the E-Z Flex Multi system comes with one hand pump and five mouthpieces, allowing practitioners to provide in-office treatment to five patients. The E-Z Flex Imager system is designed to be used during diagnostic imaging of the temporomandibular joints. The unit has an extra long length of tubing connecting the hand pump to the mouthpiece, so that a patient lying in an MRI, for instance, would be able to reach the hand pump to control the device. Often, the use of tongue depressors during diagnostic imaging of the jaw creates significant patient discomfort, reducing the accuracy of the image. The E-Z Flex Imager allows the patient to gently control and maximize the level of jaw opening during the imaging, enhancing the accuracy of the diagnostic information obtained.
The E-Z Flex Hendler attachment works with all the E-Z Flex devices and fits over a wider area of the mouth. This is useful for people who are missing teeth or who need to open their jaws wider. Another innovation, the E-Z Flex Translation Adapter, attaches to the E-Z Flex unit to rehabilitate protrusive mandibular movements.
Mr. Meyers next plans to market E-Z Flex to consumers who suffer from jaw and facial pain. "There are 20 to 30 million people in this country who have facial pain--people who grind their teeth or who have jaws that click. This device could help ease their suffering and restore normal functioning."
Harkness Eye Institute at CPMC
Fluid Motion Biotechnologies
1-800-522-6500 or (212) 342-7017
Sarah E. Nash Children's Lung and Cystic Fibrosis Center
Pediatric Pulmonary Division
Dr. Robert B. Mellins, professor of pediatrics and director
Michael Bye, associate professor of clinical pediatrics
David Evans, associate professor of clinical public health (socio-medical sciences) (in pediatrics) and director, asthma health education program
Robert Garofano, technical director, pediatric pulmonary labs
Michael Goldberg, assistant professor of pediatrics and director, basic science research
Anastassios Koumbourlis, associate professor of clinical pediatrics and director, pediatric pulmonary function labs
Lynne Quittell, associate clinical professor of pediatrics and of medicine and director, cystic fibrosis center and lung transplantation program
Beverley Sheares, assistant professor of pediatrics