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Your TMJ Disorder Questions Answered

This is the second installment in our questions and answers feature here on the blog.  If you would like to read other questions, the first installment is here.
After speaking with thousands of fellow TMJ disorder patients over the years, I’ve noticed that each patient has similar questions that don’t seem to be answered anywhere! I had the same questions when I started researching, and it was hard to find the answers. So, here are some of the most frequently asked TMJ disorder questions:

1. I clench my teeth during the day, which causes my jaw to really hurt by the afternoon. I have seen some people mention that they taught themselves not to clench.. How do I reprogram myself to do that naturally?

Here is what has worked for me…. I bought a stovetop timer and kept it with me. When I watched TV, or sat at my desk, I would set it to go off in 15 minute increments for the first two weeks. Then 30 minutes for a week, 45 minutes for a week, and one hour for two weeks.
The ticking sound helped me to remember, and the alarm every 15/30/45/60 minutes helped keep me in check…….lips together, teeth apart.  Lips together, teeth apart.  Lips together, teeth apart. 😉
It took a while, but now it seems natural that my teeth don’t touch. What has worked for you?

2. Can poor posture cause TMJ disorder?

Everyone is aware that poor posture can lead to back and neck problems…. but many patients believe it has caused their TMJ disorder, too. There isn’t any scientific evidence proving this yet, though.
A very experienced physical therapist may be able to help you with exercises and ergonomics to help relieve body pain caused from bad posture.  Many physical therapists feel that a thing as simple as rounded or uneven shoulders may cause excruciating pain, and that when one shoulder is lower than the other it could cause a constant downward pull on one side of the jaw and ear, causing neck, jaw, and ear pain, tinnitus and even vertigo.  Many women also feel discomfort and headaches from large breasts.. the premise is the same.

3. Why do I feel like I have a sinus infection but no infection exists?

TMJ disorder is notorious for making us think we are having ear infections as well as sinus infections. This is because of referred pain. The jaw is very close to the ear, and swelling in the jaw can cause many symptoms that are exactly like ear infection symptoms, like pain in the ears, clogged or stuffy ears, etc.

4. What is TMJ arthrocentesis recovery like?

TMJ arthrocentesis recovery is usually described as being fairly short (of course it depends on what *exactly* you mean by “recovery”).  Many patients have their arthrocentesis on a Thursday or Friday, returning to work on Monday. There can be a tiny bit of swelling where the procedure was done (in front of the ear), as well as some numbness the first day. After that, many patients find that the recovery is fairly easy. However, this does NOT at all mean that TMJ arthrocentesis is a procedure you should have without research and consideration. It is still a surgery, and despite what anyone says it is invasive as well. Before considering any invasive treatments or surgical procedures, patients should exhaust all conservative therapies and receive another qualified opinion.

What other questions do you have? Send us your questions and you may see them featured in the blog!

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