Your experience with TMJ?

You are not a doctor. I am not a doctor. I have been to a doctor. Seeking personal anecdotes.

Have you had TMJ? Do you have it?

Sometimes I feel like there’s an icepick being driven into my ear. I had a dental procedure (implant) begun last November and completed only a couple of weeks ago. During that time I chewed on only one side of my mouth. When I started experiencing the pain, I mentioned it to the dentist and he said TMJ is usually a dull pain, not a sharp pain. Then I went to an ENT, and he said chewing on just one side could cause the pain. Otherwise he couldn’t find anything wrong with my ear. I went BACK to the ENT a couple of weeks later after the implant was completed, because the pain was really bad–not all the time, but when it was bad, it was bad. He spent about three minutes with me and said it probably would take awhile once I started chewing normally for the pain to go away. He said, we could do all kinds of tests and an MRI and probably would never be able to pin down what was causing the pain.

I might add that I’m under a LOT of stress, dealing with my 91-year old mother about 1,000 miles away, and the sudden vacancy of a rental property (loss of income), which will need major renovation before it is habitable again. I’ve been reading that stress can cause TMJ because of tension in the jaw, tooth-grinding, etc.

The pain, when I feel it-- and it’s not all the time, but maybe intermittently, 5-10 times per day for a few long seconds-- is not in my jaw, but just inside my ear. I looked at the chart of the ear in the ENT’s office and basically there’s nothing in that area, just cartilage. For a while (and this is what sent me back to the ENT the second time) it felt like the cartilage itself-- the pinna (learned that word from the doc), the part that your glasses sit on and your earrings hang from–was sore.

I also wear hearing aids, and it sometimes feels like the hearing aid is causing the pain. But I also feel the pain when I’m not wearing the hearing aids.

Any home remedies? I’ve read that warm compresses and massaging the area sometimes help. For a while I was taking a lot of ibuprofen and I don’t want to do that continuously.

Other TMJ stories? Thx.

There are probably other threads but TMJ is too short a “word” to search.

I used Google to search SDMB for “TMJ”.

Here are the results

Good luck.


For future reference, here is how you Google something on the SDMB boards:

Google this: “ TMJ”

I know I could search using Google. I like the personal attention when I get specific replies in answer to my question. But thanks.

I have TMJ and I wear a mouthpiece at night , I had it made at my dentist’s office . This help keep the pain down and I now cut my apples up instead of eating it whole. I was getting earaches and an ENT doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with my ears and said I had TMJ. I was the job as health and doing an errand for a client and a new driver a teenage boy T Boned my car and totaled it , I got hit on my temple and knocked out cold and ended up with TMJ and lost more hearing . I took pain meds too but I can’t recall what it was . You can buy a mouthpiece at a drug store , it cost a lot less. I still get pains in my ears and there nothing I can do about it. I was told not to eat and thing hard or chew gum , I never did chew gum so it was no problem to me.

PT can help but you need to find someone that know how to treat TMJ.

I had a terrible case of it. It got a little better when I got my wisdom teeth and a bone spur in my jaw removed, but it would still bother me any time I had even the slightest cold or inflammation from an allergy. When I was 34 I had my tonsils and adenoids removed. It had nothing to do with the TMJ-- it was to relieve my ears constantly stopping up even when I didn’t have an infection process, because my adenoids were huge, and I also used to get tonsilliths, and sometimes bad sore throats when I got hay fever, so my doctor said let’s go ahead and do tonsils too. It was obvious from the appearance of my tonsils that they were “blown out,” and not doing what they were supposed to do.

After I recovered from the surgery, my TMJ discomfort was significantly reduced, and so was the pain I had from migraines. I wasn’t expecting either of those things, but I was very glad to have them. And my ears don’t stop up. Also, when I get colds, they aren’t as severe, and don’t last as long.

Recovery from the tonsillectomy was hard. For as non-serious as the surgery is, it is very painful, because there are so many nerve ending in your throat, but I would choose to do it again in a minute. I’m just sorry I didn’t do it earlier.

My TMJ was pretty significant. I’m had a lot of orthodontia because my upper and lower jaw are mismatched. I still have pain if you press on my cheek near my ear, or if something hits me there, or on the ear, but I don’t get random pain like I used to. I used to not be able to chew gum, because my jaw would get tired and sore. I can chew gum now-- I don’t really like to, but sometimes if I can’t brush my teeth right away after eating it’s useful.

Anyway, do you have tonsils and adenoids? do you get a lot of colds or allergies?

My mother has a significant case of it. She wore a mouthpiece for a while, but eventually had the dentist bond permanent nubbins on her teeth that do the same job.

Interesting replies…thanks so much.

I had my tonsils and adenoids out when I was 10.

I don’t have lots of allergies, although recently I have had plenty of headaches on the same side as the ear pain.

I have two mouth guards - an upper for night, and a lower for day.
The upper was to treat jaw pain, and made by my dentist.
Around the same time the jaw pain started, I also started getting tinnitus. We hoped the upper guard would help, but it didn’t. My dentist didn’t like that the tinnitus wasn’t improving, so he sent me to a TMJ specialist.

The specialist made a few changes to the upper guard, and that took care of the last bit of my jaw pain. He thinks that the tinnitus is caused by an alignment issue with my lower jaw - sitting too far back in the joint, and possibly with some muscle spasm…putting pressure on a nerve that goes through the ear. So last week I got a lower guard for day-time use, that hopefully will deal with that.

So far, nothing much…but it’s early.

Maybe you are having atypical migraines. Migraines can manifest in all sorts of odd ways. I went through a phase that lasted about 10 years where it felt like I had something in my eye as part of the migraine aura. I went to the ER a couple of times, and they couldn’t find anything wrong with my eye, but one doctor thought to ask if I got migraines. When I said yes, he ordered a 100mg injection of Imitrex. The feeling of something in my eye was totally gone within about 10 minutes.

You might see if a migraine medication makes the pain go away.

Whenever I get some weird pain or visual disturbance, I know it’s a migraine phenomenon, because Imitrex makes it go away. If Imitrex doesn’t affect it, it has nothing to do with migraines.

I haven’t personally. I did have a friend/roommate who had it so bad that you could hear her jaw click when she ate. She was having massive pain and migraines, so she did go to the doc and got an odd mouthpiece/headgear/jaw wrap thingy that helped for awhile. Then she got some kind of surgery. (I’m sorry, it was years ago–I don’t know exactly what and it’s probably changed a million times since then.)

But it’s helped, b/c I don’t hear her jaw click when I meet her for dinner now.

She’s still crazy, but that’s a different issue. :wink:

I think 99%+ of us have a TMJ. The amount who has TMJD is lower.

My jaw is often sore and I can pop it at will. Sometimes that’s painful. I don’t have anything diagnosed, but probably should get around to it.

I have it. Stress, medications, and sitting in front of a computer for too many hours per day make me clench my jaw. Eventually, the joints began to swell and I woke up one morning with my jaw out of alignment.

I have seen a lot of different specialists for it. The things I did that helped include:

–NSAIDs and muscle relaxers. A TMJ specialist dentist at our university hospital prescribed these. They took down a lot of the swelling and pain.

–Masseter massage. I went to a physical therapist who specializes in TMJ and he taught me to do this. It’s easy and provides relief, especially when I feel a lot of tension.

–Mouth guard. This one is less helpful for me because I don’t grind my teeth in my sleep too often. Instead, I clench when I’m awake.

–Acupuncture. I have an acupuncturist with medical training who specializes in TMJ. People will say it is “woo.” All I know is, I went to acupuncture after spending thousands on conventional medical specialists of all types. Even with medication and physical therapy and mouthguards, I was still in agony. I was desperate to try anything. After one session, most of my pain was gone. After 3, all of it was gone. I go for a “tune-up” about once a year, for a few sessions. It has been the cheapest and most effective treatment.

For years, physical therapists told me that I had very stiff, tense muscles in my shoulders, neck, and jaw. My acupuncturist noticed this and most of the treatments worked on relaxing my shoulders and neck. I regained range of motion in my neck that I hadn’t had in years in addition to the reduction in jaw and face pain. So no needles in the face were necessary.

Regardless of what treatment you choose, I urge you to have a healthy skepticism of all practitioners who claim to treat TMJ. Because TMJ is usually not covered by medical or dental insurance, there are a lot of charlatans out there who will promise a cure for lots of money. They get paid in cash up front, and there is no insurer looking for assurances of the efficacy of the treatment. Dentists in particular were eager to offer all kinds of snake oil treatments. The only dentist I found who was helpful was salaried (meaning, he didn’t make more or less money depending on what treatment I chose).

Even though I had good experiences with physical therapy and acupuncture, it was because I chose practitioners carefully. Not all are created equal. Look for people with knowledge of TMJ who can explain the medical reasoning behind what they do. If a treatment you try isn’t working, don’t hesitate to move on to something else. There are a lot of options out there. Interestingly, in the end, the ones that worked best for me were the cheapest ones. The muscle relaxers are generic; the custom mouth guard cost only about $100 (rather than the $1500 another dentist tried to charge); the acupuncture was $80 per session and was paid for by my flex credits at work because the practitioner uses CPT codes.

Best of luck. TMJ can be agony.

Wow, there’s a lot more to this than I thought…

I’m trying to cut back on my use of NSAIDs, but the massage and acupuncture options really appeal to me. I’ll look into the mouth guard, too.

Some may say that acupuncture is woo, but my dog gets it twice a month in his hips, and it has restored his ability to walk. Woo doesn’t work on him.

ETA. Masseter massage

I was diagnosed with TMJD when I was 18 - my first year of college, and I was super duper stressed. I got to the point where I couldn’t open my mouth to eat (protein shakes ftw) and was just spending a lot of time lying on the floor because it was cold.

Anyway, I got my wisdom teeth out. Then I got some orthodontics (palate stretcher) and braces. Day appliance, night appliance. Everything worked out.

When I was 26 my jaw had shifted too far the other way. Braces again. Night appliance still.

I’m 36 now, so I’ve had it half my life. I don’t notice it in day-to-day much anymore but it’s still there. Let’s see…

  • I don’t really eat snacky food like chips or popcorn because it’s too much chewing. Popcorn especially. It wears me out really quick and can make me sore for days.
  • I can’t talk for too long of a stretch. If I do, my jaw tires out.
  • If I do something “wrong” (like eat chewy candy) it can make my whole body hurt all day
  • Going to the dentist for a cleaning would wipe me out all day. I finally hit on the idea to get a TENS unit and wear it during cleanings to make my muscles relax. Now I can go to the dentist and go on with my day.
  • I still have problems deciding if pain is my ear or my jaw, even though I have a history of both. I do a lot to make sure my ears don’t get infected (neti pot!) so usually it is my jaw.
  • Ice, naproxen and lying very, very still is what helps me most with pain
  • QN Jones is absolutely right - be very careful about who you see for treatment. And after all the research I have done let me urge you to never, ever agree to surgery.
  • A good head massage is amazing.
  • You can absolutely have sharp TMJ pain

Good luck! Feel free to PM me if you ever have questions or need advice.

Actually, it can. The placebo response happens in animals, and they also respond to the expectations of their owners and the therapist. Dogs are prone to this in particular.

There’s lots of documentation where people claim to have experienced pain relief from 1) fake needles that don’t actually penetrate the skin and 2) needles placed randomly, instead of the specific places they are supposed to go.

I wouldn’t say anything if you were looking at some other woo cure, but there are documented cases of needles breaking off under people’s skin and causing terrible infections, and also of people getting Hep C from acupuncture. It doesn’t seem worth the risk for something that is a placebo at best.

What’s terrible about surgery? I have had two surgeries to relieve chronic problems, the one with my ears, that also helped with lessening cold, allergy and TMJ symptoms, and one to fix a problem with my ankle that was the result of a fracture I didn’t realize I’d had when I was a teenager. I used to twist that ankle all the time, and then would have several days of pain. Now, it doesn’t happen anymore. Make your own decision about surgery.

I meant TMJ-specific surgery. I did a lot of research on TMJD therapy when I was in college, for a long-form magazine article. I reached out to several people with TMJD and the people who had had surgery (specific surgery inside of their joint, usually to either scrape the joint area or replace the pad in the joint) all said that their jaw was much much worse after the expensive surgery. They all had horror stories about it. People who just did orthodontic therapy were much happier.

This was in 1998 that I did my research, and you really don’t hear much about TMJD surgery anymore. I think the FDA may frown on it now. (Once again, I refer to the replacing of the pad inside the joint) TMJD is a chronic condition kind of like arthritis where you’re going to get much better relief from managing it than some sort of invasive and painful procedure that will likely need to be repeated.

Surgery, as a whole, I do not have an issue with. Congrats on your ankle.

I’m so sorry to hear these stories! I have TMJD but it must be very mild or something. It doesn’t crack every day, but most days, but even when it does, it’s less pain than fatigue. By the end of the day my jaw does get fatigued and sometimes it does hurt, but nowhere near as bad as you guys. :frowning:

I really hope you guys find something to help you.

Gotcha. I realize the OP already had her adenoids out, but in my case, they were huge, and probably putting pressure on my zygomatic arch (which is where I feel pain when the TMJD is acting up-- there and in my back teeth), which could have hurt anyone, but I was especially sensitive. It’s not intuitive that adenoid removal might help TMJD, but my EMT said it made perfect sense.

I imagine wisdom tooth removal could help, if your wisdom teeth are causing your gums to swell. Basically, anything that causes swelling and puts pressure on the bones in your cheek and jaw is a problem, which is why a lot of people experience flares of TMJD when they have allergies acting up.

BTW, the OP could try something like an antihistamine to see if it helps, and if it does, that might mean that an infection of allergy is causing the problem flare-ups. I don’t really know what to say about an infection-- IANAD-- but if it seems to be an allergy, the OP could try to figure out what it is-- maybe scents, for example-- and try to avoid them.

Also, does the OP smoke? this causes soft tissue swelling that could put pressure on the bones that cause the pain.

I don’t smoke, but I may try an antihistamine.