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TMJ Disorder

Kathy Peck

TMJ is usually defined by its symptoms: headaches; pain in the temples, neck, shoulders, and back; diminished hearing; ringing in the ears; and sinus trouble. But the source of the problem can be constant jaw clenching or teeth grinding. Over a period of time, the muscles that control the temporomandibular joints (where the jaw joins the skull) develop nodules or "trigger points" that produce the symptoms when aggravated.

Stress causes people to clench their jaw and grind their teeth? But, it may be that it exacerbates an already existing condition called malocclusion of the jaw or, could be the cause of the condition in the first place. The teeth don't fit together properly and, over a period of time, the muscles must compensate for this poor fit, causing the pain and various symptoms of TMJ disorder. Many people go through life with malocclusion of the jaw and never have any symptoms or even, know that their teeth don't align properly.

If you suffer from persistent headaches, unexplained neck, and back pain, stuffiness or swelling or pain in your sinus area that doesn't respond to sinus treatments, you could be suffering from TMJ disorder. A simple self-test is to feel your temples and clench your jaw. You'll feel a muscle tense up under your fingers at the temples. Press on that area with the jaw relaxed: if you feel severe pain and tenderness, it indicates that you're tensing your jaw, the muscles are tender, and TMJ could be the cause.

Another easy test is to gently put the ends of your little fingers into your ears and press them forward, toward the front of the ear, while opening and closing your mouth a few times. Most people will feel nothing but if you feel the head of your jawbone pushing against your fingers, you could well have TMJ disorder. Other clues include: clicking sounds when you open or close your mouth; clenching or teeth grinding during the day or when sleeping; tenderness in the facial muscles upon awakening.

Here are some things to do if you suspect TMJ:

  • Consult a dentist to see if your teeth align properly.

  • Learn stress-reducing techniques for dealing with the anxiety in your life

  • Eliminate caffeine from your diet

  • Eliminate sugar from your diet if you suffer from low blood sugar

  • Buy a mouth guard from a sporting supply store to see if wearing it for a few nights relieves your pain: If it does, ask your dentist to make you a permanent one.

  • Try specific techniques to learn to relax your jaw throughout the day.

  • Sleep on your back

  • Avoid holding the phone against your shoulder by tilting your head

  • Avoid chewing very large pieces of food and hard brittle foods

  • In addition to your daily supplements add Calcium: 1,200 mg. at bedtime Panthothenic acid: 200 mg daily

  • Acupuncture


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