I was wondering, what causes TMJ in the first place?

Also, how do you know for sure that you have it and are there different degrees of having it?  My jaw makes some funny noises when I open and close my mouth.  It also gets very sore at the joint if I do certain things (like blow up a balloon, chew very hard foods for a long time, etc.)  

What can be done to fix this?  I know there is surgery but it sounds awfully scary and looks terrible.  What other options are there?  


Dear Laura,

TMJ can be caused by an arthritic jaw joint, and also grinding and clenching at night while sleeping...most pp are totally unaware that they clench.  I'm not a professional, but am someone who has successfully treated my TMJ, so I can help relate what I did to ease the pain.

I clench and grind in my sleep which caused extreme pain in my jaw joint and chewing muscles located on either side of my face, near the cheek bones.  TMJ can also cause pain in the teeth (very severe, feels like a horrid toothache and causes a lot of unnnessary extractions and root canals by dentist that do not properly diagnose the cause of tghe pain), headaches, neck aches, backaches.

First of all, I urge you to not get surgery before trying other things.  You have to get a nightguard.  I recommend Dr. Barry Rosenberg of NYC.  He made me a fantastic guard, and he also knows a lot about TMJ which he treats along with his regular dental practice.    I had a lot of guards that were not comfortable. Don't bother getting a soft guard even if a dentist suggests it.  They make the situation much worse.  The best kind is hard, that fits over the top or bottom teeth.  Dr. R's is the best. By the way, he is not in favor of surgery or braces, except in extreme cases. If you are not in NY, you can call a nearby dental school and ask if they have a TMJ department.

Here are other things that I did:

l. Jaw exercises (easy to do). Clenching causes facial muscles and the muscles nearby, to become very tight, and therefore, painful.  These exercises help to stretch out the muscles a little, to ease the painl

Open jaw wide , hold, close (don't do this until checked by a TMJ dentist or your jaw could lock)

Press with knuckle in to the spot on the cheek that is painful (but not on the jaw joint), hold, release.

Hold neck to one side as if to touch the shoulder, hold, relase, and do the other side.

When you have TMJ, the muscles in the neck, chewing muscles, back, get VERY tight which is caused by the clenching.  This tightness causes the pain.  Pain in the teeth is actually NOT in the teeth, but is RADIATING from the pain in the nearby muscles...very important to know this, so you can avoid getting tooth extractions.

2.Accupunture helped me a lot, but it took awhile to find a good practitioner.

3.Any relaxation exercise, you can use a tape is great.  Clenching is caused by stress.  Learning to relax all your muscles can ease the pain.Try not to have a lot of anxiety about having TMJ. Pain feeds on tension.  It's not difficult to deal with and get rid of the pain.

4.Medication:  You can use a drug like flexerall or other muscle relaxant.  You need a doc's Rx for this.  They work very well on a temporary basis.

TMJ gel:  Dr. Rozenberg gave me a gel (need an RX) you put on the painful spot on the cheek.  Very good.

DO NOT EVER EVER eat bagels!  Too hard!  Avoid chewy bread also, NEVER chew gum, EVER (Very bad for TMJ).  Most food is soft, except maybe carrots or nuts, so avoid these until pain is relieved.

Physical Therapy:  Ultrasound is great.  You might have to shop around to find a good PT that really knows about treating TMJ.  I used Dina Delgado (NY).  She was helpful, but, as I said, the ultrasound helped me the most.  Dr. R. gives these treatments also.

GO EASY ON PAINKILLERS especially Advil. Long time use can make pain worse!  This was on a special news report I heard a couple of years ago.  I don't know if many people know about it, but I was taking too much of it, and when I stopped, I felt better.

I used a device, upon the advice of a pain specialist, called the Alpha Stim 100. You can get it on  It's expensive, and you need a doc's prescription.  It helped me so much. I used it for about a year or so, and don't need it anymore.

Well, good luck and let me know if I can be of any further help, or answer any other questions at all.



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Susan Tannenbam


I AM NOT A DENTIST!!!!!!!! PLEASE DON'T ASK ME ANY QUESTIONS THAT SHOULD BE ANSWERED BY A DENTAL PROFESSIONAL..but I have had TMJ so I can answer questions on how I finally got my TMJ under control. I have several things I have done to treat myself, plus suggestions on what professionals to seek out, exercises, the best nightguard devices, etc..


I've had TMJ for over six years.

College degree.

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