top of page

Unlocking Relief: Understanding TMJ And Finding Solutions

Updated: Apr 2

three happy women being served pie at dinner table

Unlocking Relief: Understanding TMJ And Finding Solutions

Temporomandibular joint disorders are a common condition that can cause jaw pain, popping or clicking sounds when opening and closing the mouth, and headaches. In this article we explore unlocking relief by understanding TMJ and finding viable solutions.

The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is a hinge that connects the jaw to the skull. The TMJ allows your jaw to move up and down and side to side in order to chew, speak, and yawn. In some cases, the TMJ can become damaged due to trauma, arthritis, or stress. Many people who experience TMJ disorders also suffer from anxiety and depression.

Symptoms Of TMJ You Need To Know

There are several symptoms that can indicate that a patient needs TMJ treatment. Some of the most common symptoms of TMJ include:

  • Jaw pain

  • Swelling

  • Difficulty opening and closing the mouth

  • Popping or clicking sounds when opening or closing the mouth

  • Difficulty chewing, biting, or yawning

  • Locking of the jaw

  • Stiff, sensitive, or painful jaw muscles

  • Headaches

  • Earaches

  • Difficulty chewing or biting

  • Painful ringing in the ears

  • Difficulty or pain while opening or closing the mouth

  • Difficulty or pain while chewing or biting

Common Causes Of TMJ

Pain in the jaw, head, and neck can all be attributed to TMJ disorder. Symptoms of TMJ include:

  • A popping or clicking sound when the jaw moves

  • Discomfort when chewing

  • A feeling of pressure or pain in the jaw

  • Tenderness in the jaw

  • Earaches or headaches

TMJ Pain

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is a complex, incompletely understood problem. It affects as many as 35 million Americans, and can be caused by arthritis, autoimmune diseases, infection, injury, or insertion of a breathing tube before surgery. In some cases, the cause of TMJ Pain remains a mystery.

TMJ  Pain Treatment

Treatments for TMJ disorders range from eating a diet of softer foods to surgical options. Both the TMJ Association and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research recommend those suffering from TMJ disorders begin with conservative, reversible courses of treatment. For many people, the pain due to TMJ disorders will go away on its own. Unfortunately, many people who suffer from TMJ disorders experience prolonged, debilitating pain, and consequently will require more drastic courses of treatment.

Research on TMJ Pain

Scientists continue to research TMJ disorders. From 2006 to 2013, researchers led by UNC’s William Maixner carried out a study known as OPPERA (Orofacial Pain: Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment). They found that sleep abnormalities, history of smoking, and preexisting pain disorders were the highest predictors of initial onset TMJ disorders. Furthermore, they also found causes of TMJ disorders were to be broader than previously thought. In the words of Maxiner, “We now must recognize that TMD is not a localized orofacial pain condition. It is truly a multi-systems disorder characterized by a variety of comorbidities.” (2) Since 2013, the OPPERA program has received additional funding and expanded to four universities. Fortunately for those who suffer from TMJ Disorders, our understanding of its causes and potential treatments continues to improve as a result of ongoing scientific efforts.

In conclusion, if you suffer from TMJ pain, it’s important to know that you have options. Dr. Snyder takes a holistic approach to the treatment of TMJ disorders. After screening for a wide range of causes of TMJ disorders, she can recommend what course of treatment is best for you. Options range from Botox and Acupuncture to Occlusal Guard and Equilibration Therapies.

At-home options for TMJ pain relief

Obviously, you can use NSAIDs like ibuprofen to relieve TMD. This does provide temporary relief but isn’t a great option for treating a chronic condition. You can also use a moist cold pack to reduce pain and inflammation or a moist warm pack to help relax the muscles surrounding the TMJ.

There are a few habits you should consider if you suffer from TMJ pain:

  • Avoid hard-to-chew foods as much as possible

  • Avoid the extremes of your jaw’s range of motion

  • Avoid applying unnecessary forces to your jaw, like resting your chin on your hand or holding the phone between your jaw and shoulder.

  • Try some exercises designed to relieve TMJ pain, if your doctor, dentist, or physical therapist says they’re safe for you.

Relation Between Orthodontic Treatment And TMJ

Orthodontic treatment can correct several problems with the jaw and bite. As your bite changes, you may develop a TMJ disorder, which can result in painful headaches, chronic facial pain, and difficulty chewing. Fortunately, orthodontic treatment can resolve some TMJ problems, greatly reducing your symptoms.

Surgery For TMJ?

If you think that you may have TMJ disorder, then you should set up an appointment with your dentist. TMJ disorder is treatable and your dentist will help you figure out the best treatment for you.

After evaluating you, your dentist will probably recommend a treatment. The most common treatment for TMJ disorder is mouth guards. A mouth guard is a plastic device that you wear over your teeth while you sleep. The mouth guard prevents your top and bottom teeth from touching each other while you sleep.

Laser Assisted TMJ Relief Treatment

Is TMJ Laser therapy Painful? The Fotona Laser is a comprehensive piece of dental technology. It is transforming the way dentist perform basic and complex dental procedures. This all-inclusive laser can deliver greater patient comfort, faster healing, and better overall accuracy than traditional laser treatments.

The result is immediate pain relief as the healing process is stimulated in your muscle and tissue. The cold laser stimulates cell growth and increases the blood flow, which not only reduces pain but which also produces long-term benefits and long-lasting relief.  Most patients do not experience pain during the procedure.

There are many benefits of TMJ laser therapy including:

  • Less discomfort during treatment

  • Reduced post treatment pain and swelling

  • Rapid healing time

  • Less bleeding

  • Fewer post-surgical complications

  • Less trauma to the surrounding dental tissue

  • Bacterial reduction

There are several variables that will determine the number of treatments a patient will need such as the severity of the TMJ.  Typically, 5 to 6 treatments are required.

TMJ Alternative Treatments

Patients who are suffering from TMJ disorders may be looking for noninvasive treatment options. For patients with mild symptoms, there are alternative treatments that take the place of traditional therapies. These treatment options can be used in conjunction with traditional therapies, or they can be used on their own.

Less-Known TMJ Treatments

TMJ Braces

Patients who want to correct their bite and TMJ pain can seek treatment with braces. TMJ braces can be used to realign the teeth and jaw. When the teeth are properly aligned, the chance of developing TMJ pain decreases.

The Gum Habit

While some people believe gum chewing will aid in the relief of sore jaw muscles, studies have shown this is not true. Limiting excessive use of the jaw and surrounding muscles is much more effective for relieving TMJ. We want to take pressure off of the jaw and give it time to rest. Resting sore joints and muscles is the first step in getting your TMJ symptoms to calm down. So, for the time being, stash the gum. 

Practice Jaw Relaxing – Woosah

It’s amazing how many times during the day people’s jaws become clenched, evening while asleep.  Be mindful during the day and practice different jaw relaxing exercises. 

Press the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, directly behind the top front teeth. Next, use your tongue to apply gentle pressure. Slowly open your mouth as wide as you can, then slowly close it shut. Repeat.

Smile as big as you can! Open your mouth about two inches and release the smile. Repeat.

Check Your Alignment

Have someone take a picture of you sitting a standing. Do your ears line up with your shoulders?  If not, you may have forward head posture. This can be a huge factor in TMJ as can other spinal and neck misalignments. One exercise to help correct this is to stand against a wall or lie down on a hard surface.  Tuck your chin to your chest as if you’re squeezing a book between them and count to 30. Repeat. This is a good way to strengthen neck muscles and help relieve TMJ discomfort. 

TMJ Splints

TMJ splints are removable dental appliances that are placed over the teeth. Depending on the severity of the patient’s TMJ disorder, they may benefit from wearing their splint at night, during the day, or both. The most common reason for using a TMJ splint is to alleviate pain.

TMJ disorder treatment can relieve your pain, improve your bite, and prevent your teeth from grinding against each other.

Before recommending treatment, we will perform a thorough examination of your symptoms and determine if your jaw is causing your headaches or migraines.

Acupuncture For TMJ In Albuquerque, NM

For many people suffering from pain and compressed jaw movement, acupuncture is one of the most effective drug-free treatments available.

Many people are already aware of the benefits of acupuncture, from emotional disorders to digestive maladies. It can be beneficial for managing pain due to an injury, or pain or associated with chronic degenerative diseases such as arthritis. But how effectively does it treat TMJ?

In a recent British study, 70 dental patients received acupuncture to treat TMJ. Out of the 70 people, 85% of them reported a 75% reduction in pain.

The basic idea behind the theory of acupuncture is that energy flows through the body on very specific pathways. When these pathways become clogged, pain and disease occur. Inserting very fine needles into specific points on these pathways promotes the flow of energy, relieving pain and discomfort. Of the twenty pathways in the body, four of them pass directly through the jaw joint.

For TMJ syndrome, an acupuncturists will insert thin needles around the jaw and ear, as well as the big toe, elbows, and knees. The number of sessions necessary to treat TMJ will vary from patient to patient but the results can be extremely long-lasting.

An acupuncturist will also examine your environment and lifestyle, and may suggest changes to support further healing. Understanding the source of the problem is key to stopping the condition from returning. Sometimes there is a behavioral or psychological adjustment that needs to happen for stress and tension to be lifted as well.

Other supportive methods that complement acupuncture treatments can include change in diet, taking up yoga for stress reduction and relaxation techniques, massage, and Chinese herbs.

To find out more about the dental services offered by our dentist in Albuquerque NM, Dr. Snyder, call (505)-293-7611, schedule an online consultation or visit us at 4830 Juan Tabo Blvd. NE, Ste. K, Albuquerque, NM, 87111.



bottom of page