First steps to relief?

by Chris
(Lynchburg, VA, USA)

My name is Chris. I have been experiencing TMJ effects for approximately 5 years, only on my right side. It started off as a clicking or popping in my jaw joint (which I would use to gross people out...I know, not the best thing to do) which I had no idea was a symptom of TMJ. I had no pain. About 3 years ago I started to have pain associated with this, and one day my jaw seemed to pop out of the socket, which caused a lot of pain. After this, it was as though my jaw could not open as far as it used to. In fact I could barely get a fork with food on it into my mouth. It felt as though I would have to take pliers to open my mouth further. I went to the local dentist to get it checked out.

After visiting the dentist...and $1,000 later, I had a custom mouthguard to wear at night (even though my wife told me she's never heard me grit or grind my teeth at night). I used this even though the awkwardness of something in my mouth interrupted my sleep. After about 3 days, my jaw seemed to unlock and I could open it all the way again, but not without some popping and discomfort. I tried to continue with the guard and pay attention to my jaw movements but shortly after it locked up again. It would do this on and off for several weeks.

After also seeing a physical therapist, he explained how the ligaments are tight and the disc is misplaced which is causing my jaw to lock up and not be able to open all the way. He explained how therapy could repair the ligaments and disc but may not completely fix the problem. If it locks up again, best bet is to simply practice exercises to stretch out the ligaments so I can open my mouth bigger.

What do you know? My jaw appeared to lock up (or I like to say feels as thought it's out of the socket) 2 years ago, and has been that way ever since. I have learned to live with it, and does seem as though the ligaments have stretched out because over time my jaw has been able to open bigger and bigger. However, in 2 years I have not been able to do this without discomfort. Some days are really bad and I think contribute to headaches.

I find myself moving my jaw around awkwardly to try and gain relief, but it looks like I have a nervous twitch...or so my wife says.

I'm looking for some relief from this.

I'm skeptical about mouthguards because the feeling of something in my mouth at night interrupts my sleep so much. What makes your mouth guards different from others that this is not a problem?

From the story I've told, do you think theres any way I can feel as though my jaw is "popped back in place?"

I've only recently had such pain that I feel I need to do something different. Over the last 3 years, for the most part, it's been tolerable.

Any insight would help.


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Jaw locking and mouth night guards
by: Dr. Spainhower

Hello Chris,

Your jaw locking does seem to be of the disc going in and out of place.
To answer your question...your jaw will never be "popped" back in place.

The clicking and popping will never be cured. The jaw locking up will be an issue that you will always being addressing. The disc will wear out and you won't notice the popping and clicing as much through time, but the disc will always slip out of place every time you bite.

When you open your bite, the disc goes back in place. When you close your mouth/teeth together, then that is when the disc displaces.

You need to wear a night guard at night to reduce the locking. If the one you have now does that, then you really don't need another one.

Bite correction may be needed, but may not help you much, but should be evaluated.

But, if it is tolerable as you stated, it might be best to just do that...tolerate it. But, if it is too annoying, you could have surgery to reduce the popping and locking. But, then you'll have a reduction in the ability to open your mouth wide.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Dr. Spainhower

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