Relieving TMJ Pain – Part 1

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Quick – point to your temporomandibular joint!

If you pointed to the connection between your jaw and skull, good job. Unfortunately, that probably means you have TMJ pain. Most people are blissfully unaware of where the TMJ is and what temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD, is. When it doesn’t have any problems we tend not to think about it. However, for millions of Americans it’s not possible to forget about the TMJ due to TMD.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”2524″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” style=”vc_box_shadow_3d”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

TMJ pain is common, but mysterious

TMJ pain is a poorly understood problem, especially considering 3 million cases of it are diagnosed each year in the US alone. For example, we don’t know what causes TMJ pain physiologically. We know that it can be related to an injury, like whiplash, or that it can stem from habitually clenching or grinding the teeth, often during sleep. Arthritis and issues within the joint can also contribute to TMD.

What can sufferers of TMJ pain do to alleviate their symptoms?

There are numerous treatments and therapies for TMD, from clinical options to at home treatments.

Clinical options for TMJ pain relief

Dr. Lee Medina, DOM offers acupuncture treatment to alleviate TMJ pain. Known as AcuDental Therapy, this works by combining acupuncture and essential oils to relax the muscles of the jaw and reduce anxiety. Lee has over 18 years of experience working in and around the mouth, and offers her treatments along side your normal dental care.

Medication is also an option for TMD sufferers. If appropriate, your doctor may prescribe high-dose NSAIDs to relieve pain, muscle relaxants to loosen the jaw muscles, or anti-anxiety drugs to reduce anxiety or stress based habits that contribute to TMD, like teeth grinding.

You may be able to use an appliance called an occlusal guard to relieve TMD. An occlusal guard keeps your teeth from touching while you sleep, thereby eliminating the grinding that contributes to TMD. Dental treatments to fix bite problems may also help.

Check back soon for Relieving TMJ Pain – Part 2[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

TMJ Pain


TMJ Disorders

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is a complex, incompletely understood problem. It affects as many as 35 million Americans, and can be caused by arthritis, autoimmune diseases, infection, injury, or insertion of a breathing tube before surgery. In some cases, the cause of TMJ Pain remains a mystery. (1)

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TMJ  Pain Treatment

Treatments for TMJ disorders range from eating a diet of softer foods to surgical options. Both the TMJ Association and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research recommend those suffering from TMJ disorders begin with conservative, reversible courses of treatment. For many people, the pain due to TMJ disorders will go away on its own. Unfortunately, many people who suffer from TMJ disorders experience prolonged, debilitating pain, and consequently will require more drastic courses of treatment.

Research on TMJ Pain

Scientists continue to research TMJ disorders. From 2006 to 2013, researchers led by UNC’s William Maixner carried out a study known as OPPERA (Orofacial Pain: Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment). They found that sleep abnormalities, history of smoking, and preexisting pain disorders were the highest predictors of initial onset TMJ disorders. Furthermore, they also found causes of TMJ disorders were to be broader than previously thought. In the words of Maxiner, “We now must recognize that TMD is not a localized orofacial pain condition. It is truly a multi-systems disorder characterized by a variety of comorbidities.” (2) Since 2013, the OPPERA program has received additional funding and expanded to four universities. Fortunately for those who suffer from TMJ Disorders, our understanding of its causes and potential treatments continues to improve as a result of ongoing scientific efforts.

In conclusion, if you suffer from TMJ pain, it’s important to know that you have options. Dr. Abeyta takes a holistic approach to the treatment of TMJ disorders. After screening for a wide range of causes of TMJ disorders, she can recommend what course of treatment is best for you. Options range from Botox and Acupuncture to Occlusal Guard and Equilibration Therapies.


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Acupuncture for TMJ in Albuquerque

Acupuncture for TMJ in Albuquerque and how it works to relieve jaw pain

acupuncture for TMJ in Albuquerqu

Thanks to Dr. Lee Medina and her association with Dr. Abeyta, we are learning much about acupuncture. In this article (also posted on Dr. Lee’s site at we find that acupuncture for TMJ is a viable solution to a real issue.

What is TMJ?

TMJ, the Temporomandibular joint – is the joint that attaches the jaw to the skull. Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMD, happens when there is a problem with the jaw and muscles in the face. TMJ syndrome is commonly caused by stress, teeth grinding, and other outward habits such as constant gum chewing. Injury or trauma to the jaw and arthritis can also bring about TMJ syndrome.

TMJ symptoms can include stiffness, soreness, and popping or clicking of the jaw. It can lead to headaches, neck pain and difficulty chewing.

For many people suffering from pain and compressed jaw movement, acupuncture is one of the most effective drug-free treatments available.

TMJ symptoms can include, stiffness, soreness, popping or clicking of the jaw. It can lead to headaches, neck pain and difficulty chewing.

For many people suffering from pain and compressed jaw movement, acupuncture is one of the most effective drug-free treatments available.

Many people are already aware of the benefits of acupuncture, from emotional disorders to digestive maladies. It can be beneficial for managing pain due to an injury, or pain or associated with chronic degenerative diseases such as arthritis. But how effectively does it treat TMJ?

In a recent British study, 70 dental patients received acupuncture to treat TMJ. Out of the 70 people, 85% of them reported a 75% reduction in pain.

The basic idea behind the theory of acupuncture is that energy flows through the body on very specific pathways. When these pathways become clogged, pain and disease occur. Inserting very fine needles into specific points on these pathways promotes the flow of energy, relieving pain and discomfort. Of the twenty pathways in the body, four of them pass directly through the jaw joint.

For TMJ syndrome, an acupuncturists will insert thin needles around the jaw and ear, as well as the big toe, elbows, and knees. The number of sessions necessary to treat TMJ will vary from patient to patient but the results can be extremely long-lasting.

An acupuncturist will also examine your environment and lifestyle, and may suggest changes to support further healing. Understanding the source of the problem is key to stopping the condition from returning. Sometimes there is a behavioral or psychological adjustment that needs to happen for stress and tension to be lifted as well.

Other supportive methods that complement acupuncture treatments can include change in diet, taking up yoga for stress reduction and relaxation techniques, massage, and Chinese herbs.

We know that dental work is not fun, and TMJ can be unbearable. Dr. Lee Medina and Dr. Alicia Abeyta, DDS, integrate dentistry and medicine together and find a healing modality that works for you. Customized treatment serves to help the person — not just the issue.

Exercises for TMJ Relief

Use Some Simple Exercises for TMJ Relief

woman doing TMJ exercises for a sore jaw.

Do you have facial pains that might be associated with TMJ (jaw pain, headaches or earaches)? Reports says more than 15% of the population of the US says they have suffer from these and similar issues.

TMJ temporomandibular joints) are the two hinged joints that attach your lower jaw to the rest of your body – and allow the amazing movement required for chewing, talking, facial expressions and so much more.  To be more correct, the proper terminology for TMJ issues is TMD (temporomandibular disorders).

It only makes common sense that TMD could account for only a portion of these described issues, but pain in the jaw, chronic headaches or earaches can be a serious problem.

Our goal is to look at exercises you can do that might alleviate some of these issues before contacting a medical professional. Please be clear that these exercises might or might not alleviate and issues you might be having. This article is not intended to be medical diagnosis or treatment in any way, shape or form! If you are experiencing uncommon pain or other issues please see your dentist or medical professional!

Simple TMJ Relief Ideas

Our goal is to use exercise to retrain your jawbone to move correctly.  We want to work the muscles to allow your jaw to move without pain and in the correct manner!

But before we start working, let’s use these suggestion to minimize any pain and swelling that might be evident.

  1. Avoid all chewy foods. Stick with softer foods for a while so your jaw does not have to work as hard.
  2. Make sure you use both sides of your mouth equally when you chew.
  3. Avoid chewing gum.
  4. Minimize as much as you can opening your mouth wide (less stress on the joints)
  5. No fingernail biting!
  6. Makes changes as necessary to lower stress and worry.
  7. If you do have localized pain or swelling, utilize warm, damp washcloths to the area (do not burn yourself!)
  8. If you are not allergic, try over-the-counter pain relief (ibuprofen, acetaminophen)
  9. No teeth grinding! (This can be happening at night while you are asleep and unaware!)


TMJ Exercises

Once you have managed your pain, use the following exercises from the American Family Physicians website to retrain your jaw movement muscle to minimize the potential for returning issues.

  1. Resisted mouth opening: Place your thumb or two fingers under your chin and open your mouth slowly, while pushing up gently on your chin with your thumb. Hold for three to six seconds and then close your mouth slowly.
  2. Resisted mouth closing: Place your thumbs under your chin and your two index fingers on the ridge between your mouth and the bottom of your chin. Push down gently on your chin as you close your mouth.
  3. Tongue up: Slowly open and close your mouth while touching the roof of your mouth with your tongue.
  4. Side-to-side jaw movement: Place an object about .25” thick (for example, two tongue depressors) between your front teeth. Slowly move your jaw from side to side. Increase the thickness of the object as the exercise becomes easier.
  5. Forward jaw movement: Place an object about .25” thick between your front teeth and move your bottom jaw forward so that the bottom teeth are in front of the top teeth. Increase the thickness of the object as the exercise becomes easier.


Exercises for TMJ relief should never be painful. Stop immediately if they are and call Dr. Abeyta for professional help!


Temporomandibular Joint – Big Words for Potential Problems!

The Temporomandibular Joint is simply the joint in your skull that hinges your jaw.

Senior man holding his jaw from TMJ

Obviously, you have two joints which work together as a pair, one each just in front of each ear. Since your lower jaw bone is called the mandible, and the bones on the side of your head called the temporal bones they just combined the two to name a very important joint in your body!

Strong muscles from the bones to the mandible allow the jaw to move in all three directions required for your jaw to move: up and down, side to side, and forward and back.

This joint is specially designed with a sliding movement to allow your jaw to open and close your mouth – as well as have the power to chew food. This joint is unlike any other in your body – and as such is susceptible to damage in many ways – including stress!

Temporomandibular Disorders Defined

Interestingly enough, Temporomandibular Joint disorders are a complex and poorly understood set of conditions usually defined by pain in the jaw joint area and surrounding tissues with the addition of possible limitation in jaw movements.

Injuries, trauma, stress are all blamed for some or all of these disorders.  It can affect one or both joints can make itself a real problem by affecting speaking, swallowing, facial movement, and even breathing and chewing.

What are the Symptoms?

The most common description include an awareness of a dull, aching pain.  This pain can seem to come and go in the jaw joint and nearby areas. Others report issues moving jaws with no pain attached.

A list of all symptoms may include everything from vision problems to pain in the jaw, neck and shoulders. You could have chronic headaches, ear pain, or dizziness. Other symptoms include jaw muscle stiffness, clicking, grating or popping of the jaw joint, and even a weird feeling to your ‘bite’.

Certainly this is not to say if you have one or more of these issues that you suffer from TMJ! Sore jaw muscles, headaches or any of these other issues could be caused by any numbers of other things from the flu to an accidental whack on the jaw!

Get Help!

Call Dr. Abeyta, or your local dentist for help if you believe your symptoms point to the Temporomandibular Joint.

TMJ Relief

Here is my story of how I achieved TMJ relief.

tmj relief

Suffering from TMJ is frustrating. But there is hope! No one knows for certain why some of us suffer from Temporomandibular Joint disorder, more commonly referred to as TMJ or TMD. Some people even get afflicted more than once in their lifetime, while others are fortunate never to experience it. There are several potential causes. Among them, trauma, teeth grinding, misaligned bite and stress are the top leading causes. I’m not exactly sure what the cause of mine was because I’m constantly under stress and have been a teeth grinder and jaw clench-er my entire life.  Teeth grinding and jaw clenching are associated with stress. My dentist, knowing this, started with giving me ideas and options to help eliminate stress to tackle my problem. Additionally, he did some dental treatments so that attacking the problem from both angles finally gave me TMJ relief.  Here’s my story:

It first started in February 2013. I would get the occasional loud POP or clunk on the left side of my jaw.  This was, at first, only when I ate very chewy or tough foods, like beef jerky or Starburst candy.  At that time, I wasn’t sure what was going on, so I ignored it and avoided certain foods and started chewing on the right side of my mouth.  Within several months, I changed jobs, quit working out and dealt with a break-up.  All of these stress triggers began to show up as pain in my jaw.  It had gotten so bad that by the holidays of that same year, I couldn’t even take a bite of an apple or chew gum without being in excruciating pain. I’m not sure why I didn’t seek help sooner.  Perhaps I thought it would go away on its own. It never did.  It just got worse. So I finally sought out the help of my dentist.

My dentist prescribed me a low dose muscle relaxer and told me I needed to reduce my stress.  He also had me start a soft food diet and do jaw exercises several times a day. These only offered minimal relief.  He then suggested acupuncture and massage.  My acupuncturist started me on Magnesium and Fish Oil daily to help reduce muscle tension. At the same time my dentist was having me use a rubber ball to roll on my jaw muscles, shaved down some of my teeth to fix my bite and fitted me for a mouth guard.  It took several months, but I finally saw TMJ relief.

Everyone is different.  What has brought on your TMJ and what gives you relief may be different from what it was for me.  I think it is a safe statement to say, with TMJ as with so many other things, stress is our enemy!  I found relief by incorporating Eastern and Western medicine.  I fought this from every angle and that’s what worked for me.  Once you know how it is to deal with pain every single day without any relief, you know the importance of trying anything and everything to feel normal again.  It was 15 months of chronic pain but I can finally say that I have been pain-free for over a year. If you’re dealing with any kind of mouth or jaw pain, go see your dentist right away! Dr. Alicia Abeyta, DDS offers many different options that produce results.  You and your dentist working together will get you on a plan to achieve TMJ relief. I waited until the pain was unbearable.  I could have saved myself so much time if I would’ve just gone to my dentist sooner. I am so much more in tune with my body now.  At even the slightest tension or popping in my jaw, I know I am stressed and take the steps that work for me to deal with it accordingly.