Treatments Take the Bite Out of Jaw Pain

It’s Easter Sunday morning and I get an emergency phone call from an anxious patient. “My husband says I’ve been ‘tapping’ my teeth together at night. Can this lead to seizures?” This patient, who affectionately calls herself “Your Anxious Patient,” witnessed a close friend having seizures a few years back and is understandably petrified of getting them herself.

I returned the call and assured her that this was not related to a seizure disorder but that she should go to her medical doctor on Monday for a complete check-up and ask him all her questions. I told her she also should insist on getting a complete blood work-up, since I’d been wanting her to get this anyhow since her initial visit with me. I then told her to keep an eye out for, and a daily health diary of any jaw crackling, grinding the teeth, jaw or facial pain, or headaches, because she may have Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD).

I also mentioned that the “teeth tapping” her husband heard could just have been a sign that she was in a dream state. TMD is a very common problem, affecting many more people than one might imagine. A lot of headaches are related to TMD, or TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Pain) as it’s also called.

When we grind our teeth at night, it causes the musculature to tighten up, leading to headaches and dental problems. Your dentist can give you a custom-made occlusal (biting) appliance, made of hard plastic, to protect the teeth and minimize the grinding, but I have also had great success treating TMD/TMJ using a combination of acupuncture, dietary changes,herbs and homeopathy. According to Chinese medical theory, the primary meridian, or invisible energy channel which runs through the Temporomandibular Joint, is the Stomach meridian.

The Large Intestine meridian also runs through the area of the jaw, as does the Gall Bladder meridian. So we have three different possible “causes” of TMD/TMJ to work with in its diagnosis and treatment. And all are related to digestion.

The basic principle is to take the “blocked” energy, or Chi, in the jaw and joint area and to unblock it and move it out from that stuck place. It’s as if a beaver had built a dam across a small river or creek. At the point of the dam, the water would build up in back of the dam.

This is similar to what happens in the jaw area when you grind your teeth. The energy gets blocked and builds up. The insertion of acupuncture needles at the appropriate spots will act to unblock the dam and begin the process of alleviating the pain. The needles may be placed in the feet, hands, shoulders, or in some cases, in the jaw and temple area on the face.

If you’ve never had acupuncture before, this may seem like a barbaric and painful solution to the problem, but actually it’s rather high tech. Ninety-nine point nine percent of my patients tell me the treatment was very relaxing and they look forward to the positive, endorphin-enhancing effects. The needles are about as thin as a strand of hair, and it’s not painful. In addition, and as a complementary treatment to the acupuncture, I’ll prescribe anti-inflammatory herbs and a homeopathic remedy which matches your unique set of symptoms!

It’s that simple, and the results are both dramatic and rather quick. Usually in a matter of four to six weeks, depending on how long you’ve had the problem, you’ll experience extreme, if not complete, relief. What have you got to loose? Traditional Western medical treatment consists of using prescription medications, physical therapy, and injections of local anesthetics into the facial muscles . . . ouch! You can always fall back on the traditional methods, but why not first give the alternative a try?

TMJ – Jaw Pain by Dr. Martin
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