Temporomandibular joint disorder, commonly known as TMJ, is a kind of catch all diagnosis for pain and discomfort in the head, neck, shoulders, and jaw. This condition stems from some kind of malfunction of the jaw, typically a misaligned bite. Common symptoms of TMJ include neck and shoulder pain, migraines and tension headaches, difficulty opening or closing your mouth, and clicking of the jaw. It’s also the reason why holding a pencil between your teeth can help eliminate the pain associated with a common symptom of TMJ, tension headaches.
A Pencil a Day
All that you need to do is hold a pencil between your teeth. Dr. Leonard states that it is important not to clench your teeth. Gently holding the pencil between your teeth relaxes the temporalis, which is a fan shaped muscle that spans from your temples to the back of your head and connects with your lower jaw. During tension headaches, the temporalis spasms, which is why many tension headaches seem to radiate from the temples.
Align Your Bite!
Unlike many odd at home remedies, this has some basis in procedures that many neuromuscular dentists use to help treat TMJ. Essentially, the pencil trick is acting as a makeshift orthotic. And, as a makeshift appliance, you shouldn’t rely on it too often, or expect it to fully resolve your symptoms. It only works briefly to resolve acute symptoms, if it works at all. Some people may not have TMJ involvement in their headaches, while others may actually put their jaw in a worse position holding the pencil. This trick should not be considered a substitute for TMJ treatment.
If a patient comes to us with symptoms of TMJ, we will run a comprehensive diagnostic to determine whether the jaw is really the cause of their symptoms. If this is the case, then we will identify the ideal position for your jaw that will relax your muscles and ease that tension. An orthotic is then made that will keep your jaw in that position, which, incidentally, is probably not the exact position you achieve with the pencil trick
TMJ can potentially cause serious damage to your jaw if left untreated, although the problem often resolves on its own. Tricks like this can help for mild, occasional flare-ups, but it is best to visit a dentist if symptoms of TMJ persist for over a week, are very severe, or recur regularly. If you live in the Rochester area, please consider visiting Drs. Arlene Messer, Anna Belous, and Alessandro Geminiani at Contemporary Dentistry. Our dentists can help address any concerns you may have about your teeth, gums, or jaw. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please give us a call at (585) 244-3337.