Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ)

a woman's jaw

TMJ is a joint dysfunction caused by a misaligned jaw or by grinding or clenching the teeth, especially at night. This repeated stress affects the temporomandibular joint, which joins the upper and lower jawbones. In this area where 38% of the brain’s sensory output passes through, and one-thousandth of an inch dislocation can cause problems, misalignment can damage the jaw area and a variety of symptoms can progress. Sufferers may experience neck, jaw, shoulder and back pain.

Symptoms of TMY sufferers vary. Headaches are frequently experienced, along with facial pain, ringing in the ears, a clicking jaw, insomnia, teeth and gum sensitivity, facial tics, sinus problems, sensitivity to hot and cold and dizziness.

The actual causes of TMJ are not well-defined but there are some possible causes. TMJ is not the only disorder that can cause jaw pain. Another possible cause could be osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Other possible causes can be Sjogren’s Syndrome, scleroderma, nail biting, any dislocation of the jaw from a severe blow to the head or jaw, improper bite from genetics, scalp cyst or abscess, severely swollen neck lymph nodes, poor nutrition, stressful lifestyle or behavior like chewing, swallowing, clenching, or gnashing of teeth and jaw movements. You can test for TMJ problems by gently sticking your little finger into your ears and then opening and closing your mouth. If you hear a lot of clicking and feel an imbalance between the two sides, you can suspect TMJ.

Diet

Try to consume a diet consisting of foods that are easily chewed and digested. Avoid high stress foods such as caffeine, which can increase muscle tension; alcohol, which can contribute to teeth grinding; junk food, colas, fast food, white flour, and refined sugar.

A diet composed mainly of lightly steamed vegetables, fresh fruits, whole-grain products, lean meats, soups and brown rice are recommended. Also eat more sulfur-containing foods such as onions, garlic and asparagus. Sulfur aids in the absorption of calcium to help build bone and connective tissue.

a dinner consisting of fish and asparagus

Avoid chewing gum.

Possible Remedies

  • Manipulate the jaw into place and fit an acrylic appliance, reshaping of the teeth.
  • Wear a tooth guard (mouthpiece) during sleep.
  • Apply hot packs to the face and head during an acute attack. Sometimes alternating with cold and hot can be helpful.
  • Decrease stressors in your life which will always exacerbate TMJ symptoms.
  • Improve the posture of your neck, head and spine. See a chiropractor if necessary.
  • Present in 25% of patients with fibromyalgia- induced by stressed lifestyles with muscle tension.

Supplement Protocol

  1. CALCIUM CITRATE with Vitamin D and MAGNESIUM – are supplements needed for proper muscle function and calming effect. Magnesium is an effective muscle relaxant. Take in higher doses when flare-ups occur, this combination will help to relieve stress and prevent bone softening. Dosage: Calcium 1,000-2,000 mg daily; Vitamin D 500-1,000 IU daily; Magnesium 500-800 mg daily.
  2. MSM (METHYLSULFONYL METHANE) – a sulfur-based compound that is highly effective in relieving inflammation and can aid in joint and tissue repair. Dosage: 500-3,000 mg daily, on an acute or maintenance basis. MSM may be beneficial in combination with COX-2 herbs such as boswellia, feverfew, nettles or tumeric.
  3. BACH FLOWER RESCUE REMEDY – when applied topically this popular formula may help ease the shock and muscle rigidity. Dosage: As directed on package.
  4. GLUCOSAMINE SULFATE with CHONDROITIN SULFATE – this combination provides nutritional support for stronger bones, ligaments, tendons, and joint. Dosage: 500-1,000 mg daily.
  5. RELAXANT HERBS such as VALERIAN ROOT, HOPS, SKULLCAP, CATNIP or PASSION FLOWER – are effective in calming and relaxing the muscles around the mouth and are anti-stress to the patient. Teas can be effective. Dosage: As directed.
  6. ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS (Flaxseed, Fish or Omega 6s) – are effective to help decrease inflammation and reduce pain. Dosage: 1,000-3,000 mg daily.
  7. ARNICA TINCTURE can be used for 1-2 weeks to decrease pain and swelling and induce healing.
  8. B-COMPLEX VITAMINS – the B vitamins are referred to as the “anti-stress” vitamins because they aid in the rejuvenation of nerve cells. Dosage: 50-100 mg up to 3 times a day, as needed. Extra VITAMIN B5 (Pantothenic acid) is helpful. Dosage: 100 mg twice daily.
  9. NON STEROIDAL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY AGENTS (NSAIDS)- for relief of acute pain and inflammation, ibuprofen may be helpful. Dosage: As directed.
  10. SAMe (S-Adenosylmethionine) – this nutrient has a myriad of positive health benefits, including reducing pain and inflammation. Deficiencies of SAMe results in an inability to maintain the proper ratio of cartilage in the body. Dosage: 200 mg 2-4 times a day.
  11. COENZYME Q10 – this potent antioxidant improves oxygenation of the tissues that may cause TMJ. Dosage: 60-100 mg daily.

 

Balch, JF, Balch PA. Prescription for Nutritional Healing- 3rd edition. Penguin Putman Inc. New York, NY. 2000.

Dean, C. TMJ Trouble. Natural Health, Sept-Oct 1998. P. 26.

Marion, JB. Anti Aging Manual. Information Pioneers, S. Woodstock, CT. 1996

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