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Treatment of Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Dysfunction

by Ron Kurtus (11 August 2005)

If you suspect that you have a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, such as experiencing jaw clicking and tension pains around your temples, you should see your dentist for an examination.

Dental specialists can often help alleviate the problem by making sure your bite is correct and by prescribing a mouth guard to prevent teeth grinding while sleeping. You can also perform personal treatment by reducing or eliminating sources of stress and stopping habits such as teeth grinding.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions. Health Disclaimer

(Also see: Symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction and Causes of TMJ Dysfunction)



See dentist

Most dentists will be able to verify whether you have TMJ problems and prescribe treatment and devices to alleviate the condition.

Check bite and alignment

The dentist can check your bite to see if it needs correction. Sometimes the treatment is simply correcting one or two teeth that are causing the misalignment problem.

Teeth grinding

Your dentist can also tell if you are grinding your teeth by their wear patterns. You may be clenching your jaw during the day and unconsciously grinding your teeth both day and night. Not only is it rough on your teeth, but the continual tenseness in your jaw muscles can cause the TMJ symptoms, as well as damage the TMJ.

Your dentist may recommend a mouth guard to wear at night.

Get mouth guard

A mouth guard prescribed by a dentist typically costs between $200 and $600. You might want to try out a cheaper one to see how it works. You can buy one in a sporting goods store, but it is better to get a mouth guard made specifically for wearing at night from a drug store. They typically cost about $25.

You put the mouth guard in hot water, so it becomes pliable. Then you put it into your mouth and bite down, so that it will mold to your teeth. If you notice that your symptoms have diminished after sleeping with it in your mouth for a few nights, you may consider getting one custom-made for you from the dentist.

TMJ specialist

Your dentist may also recommend a dentist who specializes in TMJ problems, especially if you have a severe case that is not easily corrected. Typically, the TMJ specialist will prescribe a mouth guard and stress-reduction methods. Sometimes they may also offer biofeedback to reduce stress and teeth clenching. Some actually operate on the joint to correct the problem.

Reduce stress

Try to see if dealing with stress will help relieve your symptoms.

Reduction techniques

There are various stress-reductions techniques you can follow, including improving your attitude and outlook on life, meditating, cutting down on multi-tasking, and just plain slowing down. The reduction in stress should help to reduce the times you clench your jaw.

Eliminate caffeine

You should eliminate caffeine from your diet, as people who drink a great deal of caffeine tend to clench their jaws far more frequently than those who abstain. This includes cola drinks, which often have more caffeine than a cup of coffee.

Reduce sugar intake

Low blood sugar can also cause people to clench their teeth. Thus, you should reduce sugar from your diet, and if you suffer from low blood sugar, eliminate it altogether.

Take nutrients

There are two nutrients that are apparently helpful in fighting TMJ syndrome: calcium and pantothenic acid.

In addition to your daily supplements, take

Unlearn habits

It is worthwhile for you to become conscious of the problem of clenching your teeth and tightening your jaw and face muscles.

Catch yourself

Check to see if your jaw is tense during the day and try to relax it. Try to keep your lips together and your teeth apart. Try to catch yourself clenching your teeth and tell yourself, "Stop it."

Sleep on back

Many people who suffer from TMJ disorder sleep on their stomach or side. This position puts pressure on the face and seems to encourage teeth grinding. Try sleeping on your back, and you may find your symptoms greatly relieved.

Chew small

Chewing very large pieces of food and hard brittle foods put added stress on your TMJ. Try to improve your eating habits to avoid these actions. Chew smaller pieces.

Other possibilities

TMJ can possibly be caused by allergies and can also be treated with acupuncture.

Eliminate sources of allergies

Some researchers have made a connection between TMJ disorder and allergies. If you've had food allergies in the past, you should try to eliminate any foods from your diet that might be causing a reaction.

Acupuncture

You might try acupuncture. Some claim that it works well to relieve persistent jaw and neck pain.

Summary

If you suspect that you have a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, you should see your dentist for an examination. Dental specialists can often help alleviate the problem by correcting your bite and by prescribing a mouth guard to prevent teeth grinding while sleeping. Reducing or eliminating sources of stress and stopping habits such as teeth grinding can also help.


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Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials

Websites

TMJ Disorder - HearNet.com

Symptoms of TMJ - HealthCentral.com

General Health Resources

Books

Taking Control of TMJ by Robert O. Uppgaard DDS, New Harbinger Publications (1999) $14.95

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff and It's All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson, Hyperion (1997) $14.95 - Classic best-seller on simple ways to keep the little things from taking over your life

Eliminate TMJ and Teeth Grinding (Audio CD) by Scott Sulak, Change For Good (2003) $15.95

Top-rated books on TMJ

Products

SleepRight Adjustable Night Guard from Splintek-PPI (2004) $69.95


Questions and comments

Do you have any questions, comments, or opinions on this subject? If so, send an email with your feedback. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.


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