TMJ problems, anyone?

No, no, not “TMI.” Much less interesting.

As a teenager I was diagnosed with a problem with my temporomandibular joint (TMJ). It cracked (on the right side)when I opened my mouth wide, or chewed, or anything like that, and often hurt and gave me headaches. I got braces and headgear and all that awful stuff, and ended up with straight teeth, no more pain, and only occasional cracking.

But two nights ago it became incredibly painful, quite suddenly. I ran for the Ibuprofin which seemed to help a bit but it still hurt like a mofo, I was honestly worried that soon I wouldn’t be able to talk or eat solid food. It may have been the changing weather, by the next morning it was fine, and it’s still okay although I have occasional twinges.

I’m not 100% sure that this is the same problem recurring. But I don’t even know who to ask ! I don’t want to revisit the orthodontist because I can’t bear the thought of more metal in my mouth, and I’m no longer covered by my mom’s insurance. I will pay who I have to pay to get rid of it, but I don’t know where to start: dentist? Doctor? Chiropractor? Acupuncturist?

Anyone else have experience with this?

I do. It majorly sucks.

Have you had any other dental work done in recent history? New fillings/crowns/etc. can spark TMJ episodes. Also, stress could make it happen again. My dentist recently gave me a bite guard, although I can say I felt it’s helped much (it feels like wearing a bad retainer.)

When I have a flair up, officially I’m supposed to eat soft foods (no chips/chewy stuff), take naproxen twice a day, and take cyclobenzaprine (a muscle relaxer.) I tried applying heat once, and it made it a million times worse. I haven’t tried that since.

I would go to a dentist, personally. There are a few that specialize in TMJ. I don’t know how legit this site is, but you might fine a dentist here:

Good luck!

err…make that “I can’t say it’s helped much” about the bite guard."

This site might be helpful, as well:

Thanks ! I’ve been cruising, it’s helpful in a way but frustrating because what I’ve learned is that there are no treatments that have really been proven to work, and that I may be starting on a lifetime journey of pain and disputes with health care practitioners re: treatment options.

No, no recent dental work. And I’m no more stressed out than I have been since … well, since I got my braces off seven years ago.

Is your pain on both sides or only one?

My pain is only on my right side. At times it’s been in from my jaw to my right bicep. Luckily, right now it’s fairly mild… maybe Tylenol once or twice week, and mostly just some sore neck muscles. If you were only hurting that one night and it doesn’t seem to come back again, you might have just had a really brief episode. Just take it easy for a few days, and chances are it’ll resolve itself.

I’m lucky to live close to one of the best orofacial pain clinics in the nation, at the University of Kentucky. But even then there’s still no miracle cure. Basically, my doctor said, “It’s going to get sore sometimes. Eat soft food, take an NSAID, and take some cyclobenzaprine for a few days.” It’s frustrating to be in unbelievable pain without a real solution. “Relax your jaw.” Well, ok, I’m trying, but it’s just not that easy. Most of my problems are muscular, though, whereas alot of TMJ patients seem to have problems with the actual joint. I’d imagine the advice is much the same, though. Buy a good soup cookbook. :wink:


Thanks. Man, I hope this doesn’t get any worse.

On relaxing the jaw: have you tried that trick where you press your tongue to the roof of your mouth? I’ve heard about it in a number of contexts - first, when I couldn’t stop grinding my teeth obsessively, and then in yoga and taoist stuff and so on. Just put your tongue there and put a little pressure on: it’s impossible to clench your jaw when you have your tongue there. Also it’s very relaxing as it completes some kind of energy cycle through your body. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and concentrate on your tongue … if that makes sense …

… although i would hope that you have exhausted these kinds of suggestions already !

Actually, I’ve never heard that, but oddly enough my natural position is my tongue pressing up against the roof of my mouth. (It’s supposed to be lying flat, but my tongue refuses to conform. hehe.) Maybe I’m just naturally gifted at yoga (HA!)

Well, this is probably not what you want to hear, but I have occasional very mild problems with popping/ cracking/ feeling weird-but-not-particularly-painful. Went to see a slew of folks a while back (5-6 years, maybe?), including a TMJ clinic at the local university teaching hospital. The basic conclusion from all that is they really had no clue what to do, so the recommendation was to do nothing, unless the problem was so debilitating that potential side-effects from treatment were worth the relatively small chance it would actually do any good…

My best friend once dated a girl who was diagnosed with it. The only reason I know this is because after a night of harmless ribbing (Ive known her for almost as long as Ive known him) she stated that it was impossible to perform oral sex because of her TMJ, it was possible for her to, but he ran a severe risk of being bitten if she had an episode. She hasn’t lived that one down since.

Check with a dentist first, but playing a wind instrument daily might help. It would depend on the instrument, maybe, but trumpet definitely helps me. (part of the principle involved in playing an instrument says you should be as relaxed as possible)

I brought the issue up with my teacher, who said that he thought he knew what I was talking about (he’d never been diagnosed with TMJ) but he said he’d experienced the symptoms. He said that when he felt his jaw tighten, he just held it out as far as possible for about 30 seconds and then felt better (not recommending this approach!) I thought it was pretty amazing that he dealt with the problem and never had any trouble playing.

Hmm. I wonder how woodwind instruments would work with that. I’ve always been afraid to annoy my jaw anymore to really play any when I’m in the middle of a TMJ episode. (I play clarinet, flute/piccolo, and sax.) Next time around, I might try that. It can’t kill me. I played my piccolo tonight, but I don’t know if that made any difference or not.

I had TMJ from grinding my teeth at night. It really hurt. I ground all the enamel off of my teeth .

Get an NTI appliance; they really work. Small fitted piece of plastic that goes over your front two teeth so you can’t bite down. I have no more pain in the morning and very little TMJ anymore. Sure it costs a few hudred dollars and I have to get it repaired or replaced ever 3 months. I just cracked one in two. Now, just think of what I was doing to my teeth. Get one before you grind the enamel off of your teeth.

No, cheaper substitutes don’t work. For example, a football bite guard will just make you gag or drool. If you cut off the ends so it is only the front, then you risk inhaling it at night which could kill you. The NTI thing is very well thought out.

NOTE: I don’t get money from this and don’t work for them.