TMJ Relief: Some medications cause jaw clenching

I have recently become aware that some widely used pharmaceutical medications cause jaw clenching and grinding as side effects.

The best known are in a class called SSRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, commonly prescribed for depression. I’m sure you’ve heard of Prozac (fluoxetine). Here are some other SSRIs:

  • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Celexa (citalopram)
  • Lexapro (escitalopram)
  • Paxil and Pexeva (paroxetine and paroxetine CR)
  • Viibryd (vilazodone)
  • Luvox (fluvoxamine and fluvoxamine CR)

In addition, antipsychotics like Haldol are said to cause bruxism. Symbyax, which is Prozac plus the antipsychotic Zyprexa (fluoxetine + olanzapine), is also on the list.

In general, if you take any medications in these categories and you are clenching or grinding your teeth, talk to your doctor about alternatives: psychotropics, dopamine agonists, antihistaminergics, and psychostimulants.

Cigarette smoking, caffeine, alcohol, and recreational drugs all may increase the risk of bruxism, studies have found. 

I recently learned that there’s an alternative to pharmaceuticals for treating depression and other mental disorders. It’s called TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) and it works with your brain waves (rather than the chemical approach using particles).

I know one integrative MD in Austin who offers it, and your insurance may cover it for depression. To learn more, please connect with Oak Hill Wellness Center. They even offer a free TMS consultation.

It’s been approved by the FDA to treat depression and migraines, and it’s also being used to treat anxiety, OCD, PTSD, Asperger syndrome, TBI, ADHD, and more.

One more bit of info: I had a new TMJ Relief patient who was taking an SSRI for depression. I treated her and gave her the info above, but unlike others I’ve treated, she didn’t notice a difference at the end of the session.

However, she emailed me the next day to tell me that for the first time in a while, she woke up without severe jaw pain and headache.

So even if you are taking an SSRI and have jaw pain, one of my TMJ Relief sessions (or even better, the 5-sessions-in-4-weeks program) can help, and meanwhile you can be investigating alternatives.

Coming soon! A class for dental offices

I have been taking a fantastic class called NLP+Presentations. The first part was this past weekend, and the second part will be in mid-February.

I’m working on a presentation for dental offices. It will be an hour max, so it could be a lunch-and-learn or a training offered to staff early or late in the workday.

I probably don’t need to tell you that some people complain of jaw pain after receiving dental work.

Dental professionals need to accommodate them by offering frequent breaks from wide-open mouth position — some even use devices to keep the mouth cranked wide open.

Dental offices also experience cancellations when someone’s jaw pain has flared up and they can’t even imagine holding their mouth open for dental treatment.

In fact, dental professionals are often the first health care professionals to let someone know that their clenching and/or grinding habit is damaging their teeth.

Although they offer orthotic devices to protect teeth and/or try to realign the TMJs, and they can usually repair the tooth damage they encounter, they don’t work on the biggest cause of jaw pain — myofascial tension. In fact, most dentists receive little or no training in the jaw — their domain is teeth and gums.

As a massage therapist, my domain is the myofascial realm of muscles and soft tissues. I work on postural issues, shoulder and neck tension, decompression of cranial bones, and do intra-oral work on all four internal jaw muscles — as gently as possible.

I can help dental offices help their patients, and I believe we can work well together.

If you think your dentist might be interested in this free training, please connect us. I’ll be offering trainings starting in late February.

Choose a practitioner for intra-oral TMJ therapy that works on the lateral pterygoids

Recently I’ve had two clients come in for TMJ relief sessions who have previously seen multiple practitioners who worked inside their mouths. Between them, they have seen chiropractors, chiropractic neurologists, Rolfers, dentists trained by the Las Vegas Institute (LVI), and/or other massage therapists.

These two clients both told me, “No one has ever touched me there,” after I worked on their lateral pterygoid muscles. That surprised me.

These small muscles are hard to access, being nearly surrounded by bones (cut away in the image below so you can see the two-headed muscle), and in my opinion, they are often the keys for releasing jaw tension.

anatomy of the jaw muscles

It’s not that the other jaw muscles don’t contribute. They do, and in roughly 10% of the jaw pain cases I’ve worked on, one of the medial pterygoids is the problem child.

The external jaw muscles — the masseters and temporalises — also play a role in jaw tension but are usually not the biggest cause. Sometimes it’s all of them.

I usually save the lateral pterygoids for last when working on someone’s internal jaw muscles, because they are so hard to access. It helps to have tiny pinky fingers.

It can take time to reach them, and sometimes I can’t reach them on the first couple of visits because all the muscles affecting the TMJs are so tight. Any release of tension in this area near the joint is therapeutic.

Keep in mind that I’m touching where people never get touched. This area can be sensitive. This is why I offered CBD oil to my TMJ clients.

When I get near or on them, it can be a revelation. “That’s the place!” When they are tight, getting some release of tension can profoundly affect the TMJs. Once there, I don’t need to stay long.

It’s not that these other intra-oral practitioners (at least in these two clients’ experiences) have nothing to offer. I’m not familiar with all of them, but chiropractors, Rolfers, and massage therapists have all helped me.

But if jaw pain and tension are your major complaint, and you’d like a sense of spaciousness in your jaws (if you can imagine how great that would feel), go to a practitioner that works on the lateral pterygoids.

I hope this information helps you ask informed questions when choosing a practitioner to relieve your jaw tension and pain.

Thank you for a good year, my friends. Here’s to 2019!

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I woke up this morning at year’s end, reflecting on my work in 2018. It’s been a very good year for me in so many ways, and I want to share that with you.

  • I’ve really come into my own doing the advanced integrative bodywork that I love, and of course there’s always more to learn with each person who comes in.
  • I’ve done more sessions with more people than in previous years.
  • I started working with a business coach this year, and I am very grateful for that. I’ve learned a lot.
  • I’ve continued training in craniosacral therapy, biodynamics, and Zero Balancing, deepening and integrating those skills.
  • Treating TMJ tension and pain has become a satisfying mainstay of my practice, ranging from the free 30-minute consultation to the 5-sessions-in-4-weeks program to my Facebook group Word of Mouth, as well as seeking and working with referral partners.
  • My new Heavenly Head Massage is getting a lot of traction.
  • I feel settled and at home in my office in West Lake Hills and very happy to be working with the practitioners who share the suite.
  • I’ve enjoyed feeding the birds on the hillside outside my office as well as arranging rocks just so.

I don’t know what 2019 will deliver, of course, but I have some plans:

  • I’ll be taking a course in TMJ mastery from a teacher in Canada who’s been doing TMJ and vocal cord work for over 20 years. He hasn’t posted the dates and locations for his 2019 trainings yet, but trading some of Austin’s summer heat for some Canadian cool would be nice!
  • I’m taking another craniosacral therapy course from the Upledger Institute in May, SomatoEmotional Release 2 here in Austin, and I’m slowly making progress on getting certified in craniosacral therapy techniques. I’ll continue to attend study groups and work with a mentor and will serve as a teaching assistant for CST1 in Austin next August. I feel advanced Upledger courses calling me — the brain, cranial nerves, pediatrics, the inner physician, and more.
  • I’m starting to work on certification in Zero Balancing. I continue attend study groups, advancing skills days, and taking classes, and I hope to attend founder Fritz Smith’s 90th birthday in May near Palm Springs, CA.
  • I plan to make videos for my website, Facebook page, and Facebook group.
  • I don’t have any classes in mind yet for biodynamics in 2019, but I plan to continue working on a modeling project with a mentor and trading with fellow practitioners.

May 2019 bring you more of what you want in life — health, happiness, abundance, love, opportunity, connection, peace of mind, and satisfaction. Thank you for your presence in my life!

Who doesn’t love a head massage? Check it out and help me name it!

After spending 4 days recently taking a class called “Addressing the Skull,” I want to get you onto my massage table so I can practice, practice, practice! It’s the best way I know to integrate training into, well, my advanced integrative bodywork practice.

I also need your help naming this new addition to my repertoire. I want to describe it separately from a Zero Balancing session. In my view, a ZB session addresses the whole body, including the head, whereas a skull/cranium/crown session spends most of a 45-minute session on the head.

This was a class in Zero Balancing, which aligns your structure and frees your energy, but most of the session will be spent addressing your skull. I learned lots of secrets of the skull, including that working on the outside of the skull affects the inside, i.e., the brain. And it’s not exactly a massage. It uses artful touch and knowledge of anatomy to find those places that release tension you may not have even known you had.

For instance, there is a place behind your ears that is similar to that place where dogs love to be petted, behaving as if they could never get enough, leg twitching and groaning with pleasure.

There are several special places on your skull where two or three or four bones come together that just love to be touched.

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I imagine that everyone in the class experienced several releases of tension in their skulls that they were not aware of before. We can get so habituated to stress that it gets normalized. Guess what? Normal can be better. (Thanks to San Antonio ZBer Jamie Carmody for making “Make normal better” her tagline.)

I suspect this work may prevent headaches and migraines.

After four days of training, which included many trades, my friend and I noticed that we could see better. When looking into our training room, the 3D-ness of everything was in sharper relief, and everything had more clarity. Working on the head affects all the senses.

This is your brain, on ZB.

I plan to run this special for a couple of weeks, and may consider extending it after that. I’ve lowered my price by $25 for a 45-minute Zero Balancing session. Go here to book yours.