Tag Archives: Treating TMJ

Store Bought TMJ Treatment

I’m drowning in medical bills right now and don’t think I can afford a dentist. But, my jaw has locked up. My sister says TMJ does that and that I need an oral device to help. All I know is I can’t even eat. I’ve heard you can use an oral mouthguard to treat TMJ. I saw one at the pharmacy the other day and it was only about $20. I can afford that much. Is there anything I need to know about using it?

Drew A.

Dear Drew,

TMJ Treatment Dentist

Your sister is right on both points. Lock-jaw is often caused by TMJ Disorder. While, the orthotic anterior repositioning splint can be used to treat TMJ, that’s not what you saw at the store. A mouthguard is completely different. They’re used to protect people’s teeth from habitual tooth grinding. If that’s an issue you struggle with, you’ll want a mouthguard after you finish your TMJ treatment. However, the store bought ones aren’t custom fit. They just come in small, medium, or large. You can also find a one size fits all. They’re okay on a temporary basis, but you’ll grind through them rather quickly.

One made by your dentist will be more effective. I know your TMJ is the focus right now, but if you don’t protect your teeth from the grinding there are serious consequences. Not only does the grinding aggravate your TMJ, but it can lead to cracked teeth or even teeth coming loose and needing to be replaced. Best case scenario, they end up ground down to nubs and all need to be crowned. Talk about expensive!

But, back to your current issue. Here’s what I’d like you to do in the immediate so we can try to get the swelling down and get you eating again. I’d like you to take 800 mg. of ibuprofen about three times a day. In addition, you need to alternate heat and ice packs. Wear them for about ten minutes at a time, a few times a day as you’re able.

You will need to see a dentist to get the appropriate treatment. I know you’re buried in medical bills right now. Many dentists are compassionate and would be willing to work with you on payments so you can get the treatment you need right away and pay it out later.

Even if you can’t find one willing to work you, Care Credit is a fantastic option. It’s a medical “credit card”, but they let you choose your terms.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Randall Burba.

I’ve had some degree of dental anxiety ever since I was a child, but I did a fair job of keeping up with appointments until I was in my early 20s. At that point, I was having some minor jaw pain and the doctor also found a couple of cavities that needed to be filled. He knew about the jaw pain, but told me there wasn’t any cause for concern over it. He felt it was related to grinding at night. My experience with the fillings, however, was horrific. He must have made me keep my mouth open for about two hours straight. It hurt so bad and I kept telling him I needed a break, but he kept going and telling me it would only be a minute or two more. By the end of it, tears were streaming down my face and he basically told me I was acting like a child. It really hurt! I couldn’t eat normally for weeks after that and I haven’t been back since. Now, I know my teeth have some issues going on, but my jaw pain is really flaring up again too. I think I should see a TMJ dentist for that, but where do I go first? Can he treat me before I get my cavities filled, so I can get through the treatment or do I need to start with my teeth and then address my jaw? I don’t think I can do more fillings before fixing my jaw pain.

Marie E. – Pittsburg

Dear Marie,

See the TMJ dentist first. It sounds like you’re already familiar with how one can help you. A TMJ dentist can address the root cause of your jaw pain and hopefully get it to settle down so you can be comfortable getting your other dental needs seen to.

With that said, something about what you said jumped out. You mentioned that your prior dentist said you grind your teeth at night and that’s what was causing your jaw pain. If this is the case, getting a simple night guard made might be all you need to address the sore jaw. Undoubtedly, the TMJ dentist will discuss this with you if you’re a good candidate for one. However, what’s striking is that your prior doctor didn’t mention this. It was cause for concern and should have been treated back then.

Continuous grinding not only strains your jaw and muscles, but wears down your teeth. If wouldn’t be too surprising to find that you’ve weakened the biting surface of your teeth enough that they’re either sensitive or highly susceptible to decay. In extreme circumstances, you can wear them down enough or crack them so that they’ll require crowns, but most of the time fillings can repair the damage.

Although this doesn’t matter in terms of getting you out of immediate pain, you may want to keep this in mind for when you go in for a full diagnosis. It’s not the end of the world by any means. You’re on the right path and will get your dental concerns addressed, but it could take some time to restore the damage that’s occurred over years of grinding. Best of luck to you.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Randall Burba.