Saturday, November 6, 2010

Trying a New Approach

As I've mentioned before, I have been suffering from temporal mandibular joint disorder (TMJ disorder or TMD) for several years now. Because I constantly clench my teeth, both while I'm sleeping as well as when I'm awake, the right-side joint of my jaw has been damaged. It grinds and clicks when I work my jaw and causes a lot of pain in my face and head. Since many of the nerves that control the face can be affected by TMJ problems, on my worst days I have sharp pain radiating into my teeth, nose, throat, and tongue.

In addtion to the TMJ-related problems, I've also had tension headaches, which feel like a band around the head, for about a year. Although not particularly painful, these often started in the morning and would last all day. However, when the headaches started getting more frequent and stopped responding to the Excedrin I was taking on a regular basis, I went to our favorite doctor; i.e., the Internet. It turns out that Excedrin is a common cause of rebound or medicine-caused headaches. Apparently, if you take pain-killers like Excedrin more than twice a week (I was taking them more than that a day), you can actually cause headaches. About two weeks ago I stopped taking Excedrin and anything with caffeine (another culprit in rebound headaches). Although I had horrible withdrawal headaches for a few days, within a week my tension headaches were effectively gone.

Of course, with the tension headaches gone, another irritation will step in to take its place. Since the right side of my jaw doesn't work right, it was only a matter of time before it started to affect the other side. Recently the symptoms have started to appear on the left side of my jaw and head. I can tolerate the pain on one side, but not on both. I therefore bought an inexpensive bite guard on Without anything between the upper and lower teeth, the jaw will tend to clench with a lot of force; bite guards short-circuit the jaw's tendency to do this. The bite guard I bought tells you not to use it for TMJ problems, but I assume that this is because it's not FDA approved for such usage. I'm sure that this is the reason why this bite guard cost about $10 and the slightly more customized (but FDA approved!) dentist-produced ones cost about $200.

I wore the bite guard last night and, amazingly, I woke up without the usual tired jaw muscles and related pain. Unfortunately I also clench my teeth during the day, so the pain has since come back. At least I got a brief reprieve this morning.


  1. Glad to hear that the mouthguard worked (at least during the night). Rick is a grinder and I'm a clencher so we both use mouthguards. I've found several to be helpful but have since developed an alignment problem because my mouthguard doesn't include my wisdom teeth. From the use of my guard, my wisdom teeth kept growing but the guard limited the further movement of my front teeth. Now my front teeth don't touch, limiting my ability to bite food from off of a larger piece of food. Strange I know. The picture you posted looks like it might go all the way back to the rear of your mouth. Is that your mouthguard? Do you have a brand recommendation (if it is one that goes all the way back…)?

  2. Unfortunately the image in my post is a miscellaneous one from the Internet. I believe it's one made by a dentist. Mine is different in that it's open at the back. It does go all the way to my rear molars, but that's because my wisdom teeth had been growing in sideways (called a horizontal impaction) and had to be removed when I was 19.



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