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.

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.