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TMJ (jaw joint pain)

I have horrible bouts of TMJ (Jaw pain). I visited my TMJ doctor today and one of the sources we discussed is the possibility that I grit my teeth while I am working on something especially hard or difficult. Some days that could be everything. I asked if a tooth guard might help. He said that he could make a very expensive custom guard, but suggested trying an over the counter sports guard first. I bought one for $2.00 at the local drug store and formed it per the instructions to my very irregular teeth. So far so good. I am just wondering is others have a similar problem and have used this solution. Thanks…Rob

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My daughters orthodontist said to me when I had a migraine during one of her visits, it was really TMJ. I did the mouth brace thing. Wore it for a year. Didnt put a dent in my migraines. It did cause my lower jaw to change shape, and the inner side of each tooth was worn down. My jaws dont meet up properly. To fix the problems was going to cost more than the out of sight cost for my daughters orthodontic work. IMO unless you have a second opinion from another dr. Who doesnt know the first dr. Dont do their braces. Most TMJ can be done easily by really simple surgery done through the mouth. No more problems than having wisdom teeth out. At least what I was told.

Hi Rob…if you are clenching during work, you may also be clenching during sleep. IDK about you, but I wake up having dreamed of jewelry designs often. So I would probably wear the mouthpiece during sleep, too. If you can procure a night vision camera, you could video yourself during sleep and maybe find out if you are clenching during the night. Might be some meditation or relaxation exercises would stop it and you could also tell that by video-ing. Do you have any soreness in the jaw when waking? Just some thoughts from a retired psychologist…-royjohn


Hi Rob, Sorry to hear you are suffering from TMJ. I’ve had this issue since my teenage years and I know it’s absolutely no fun. I clench & grind my teeth when focusing on something difficult, lifting something heavy, playing with my dogs, sleeping, or just stressed out. I used a cheap sports guard for a while but they are very bulky and uncomfortable, plus they can cause you to drool which nobody likes. I invested in a custom dental guard about 10 years ago and I’m now on my third one. The ones from a dentist will fit perfectly and are quite comfortable. They kinda snap onto your top teeth and stay in place easily. They eventually will crack and wear down due to the grinding against your lower teeth. I don’t wear one during the day since I can usually catch myself clenching and try to consciously relax my face, neck & shoulders. I do wear one EVERY night for fear of chipping teeth, grinding the enamel or biting the inside of my cheek. I would highly recommend that you invest in a proper dental guard. Most insurance companies will cover at least a portion of the cost. I think my last guard cost around $300 (my cost) and it’s worth every penny. Although it’s not recommended, I soak mine with denture cleaner tablets every so often to clean it. Also my dentist will clean it in the autoclave when I go for 6-month visits. Other things I’ve tried are yoga, massage and acupuncture to help relax the muscles. Hope this helps. Good luck! -Laura

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Hi Rob … you have found a orthodontist that “jumped” both feet into making jewelry. Approximately 8 years ago, I entered the jewelry world with a Enamel workshop at John C. Campbell Folk School. Dentistry and orthodontics is a a great fit :grin:…for jumping into jewelry…TMJ … not that “complex”, it is basically caused by “grinding” you teeth or many times caused by “just clenching you teeth together”. In regard to grinding, usually a hard plastic mouth piece is used so you can move you lower jaw in different directions. Clenching causes more problems to your tempero-mandibular joint…the muscles are stressed, placing a lot of stress where the lower jaw “fits” into the skull. When in stress, sometimes in jewelry construction, your clenching places a lot of stress on the joint…this is where a SOFT mouth guard helps. Try one of those make it yourself guards you can find at a drug store. If you are grinding, you will need to have a dentist perform that guard. Unfortunately, dentists found they can CHARGE unreasonable fees for hard guards :weary:…DO NOT have anyone tell you that you need surgery on your TMJ !!! Ending, STRESS is the culprit…less TMJ problems when you are on vacation or wearing your Life is Good shirt…

Hope this helps…Tony


I mentioned surgery because there are cases that are not due to clenching. Carol Burnett is a classic case. In my case my migraines were not caused by TMJ, years later it was found to be sinus tumor. I actually would do the opposite and not opening my mouth would open the jaw wide like if you sniffed a bad smell. I would agree about soft appliance rather than hard plastic one. The hard one will just from chewing food and talking, wear the teeth down if not properly made.

Speaking of soft guards, what about the teeth guards boxers use?

Aggie, in regard to guards in the boxing world, they are probably similar to guards worn by football :football: players. These guards would be made by dentists or various sizes of guards placed in boiling water to soften, then cooled down and placed in the mouth. Of course, in todays world, if you google Amazon, there are dental labs that will send you impression material and instructions on using the impression material and then sending to there lab for the guard. The impression material is very similar to impression material sold by jewelry supply stores. I have used the material in making molds for silver clay … e.g. I have taken impressions of unusual buttons, used the mold for silver clay, great results. Ending, if you can afford a dental fee, find a dentists to make a guard. I must say, I was quite impressed with the guards on amazon. I googled dental night guards and J & S Labs was impressive. The big drawback from using a guard from the “net”, if it needs adjustment, you best be able to use your jewelry knowledge on trimming :grin:.

Thirty years ago I had a nighttime appliance made for my TMJ. It snapped over my lower teeth; the upper surface was ground smooth so that my upper teeth would just slide around instead of gripping and grinding. Worked a treat! But $$$. Today, that same dentist’s daughter makes the same appliance for far less.

And one or two tips: if you bite your lips, nails, or cuticles, try not to. It torques and thrusts the mandible (jawbone). Likewise for pipe stems, toothpicks, etc. Also, give up the hard candies and chewing on ice.

You can also try consciously relaxing that set of face and neck muscles multiple times daily. Think about relaxing them as you fall asleep.

Also, biofeedback worked for me for vestibular migraines, and might be cheaper than a bite appliance. Of interest to me is that my biofeedback mentor, a Hopkins MD, started by teaching me to breathe correctly using my diaphragm, which had been suppressed by years of ballet training in which one’s abdomen must be held still, and flat. His first words to me were, “Well, I can tell you that you’re breathing wrong.”


I am a sleep grinder, and started off trying the drug store mouth guards, but they were so uncomfortable for me! I can’t afford one from a dentist, so after a bit of research I decided to try this site: I’ve been super pleased with it. The fitting process was a bit painful (all the molds to fit in your mouth to get the impression were too big IMO) but I got a great fit in the end, and have had my guard for a couple of years now. It’s thin and flexible and perfect for me.

I have a friend who also swears by acupuncture for grinding.

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A few months ago a sizeable piece of one of my molars snapped off when dental floss caught on a rough spot. It didn’t really hurt much at the time and without dental insurance I ignored it, until suddenly failed last week. It was broken with a secondary fracture and infected from the decayed root. The second crack is stable for now, but the crown may not keep it from moving further. I was dumbfounded when the dentist explained that I had broken the tooth myself by clenching or grinding my teeth! I clench my teeth during the day when I’m frustrated but I had no idea that clenching my teeth could actually shatter one! Please do yourself a favor and find a way to protect your teeth! A comfortable $300 guard is vastly better than the pain of a shattered tooth and a dental bill with another zero added!

This is a forum about jewelry, right?

The original post asked if anyone experiences TMJ from concentrating on difficult or complex jewelry projects. It went on to ask if anyone wears a mouth guard to help prevent TMJ while working on these projects. We talk about jewelry related health topics all the time and, to me, they seem appropriate for this forum. Just my two cents…Rob


The work we do to make it possible to do the work we do is important and should be shared. I have made appliances and jigs to accommodate the lack of facility that working with re-attached fingers cause. I have had a Physical Therapist and an Occupational Therapist advise me on my work subsequent to a car accident.(Tax deductible) As we age we all fine tune our technique. We learn to work standing up. We buy a big shear because it’s more efficient and it doesn’t hurt our wrists like the old hand held shears we have dragged around since we were 20. We should be discussing polishing filters, air vents, rolling surfaces on floors, wrist braces, even dental appliances and about anything that makes the work possible. It is all a part of doing the job.

Don Meixner


I agree. We are the power source of the tools we use, and we need to fine-tune, improve, or bolster the parts of our bodies that need help to get the job done.


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Thanks for sharing, Rob. I had the exact same problem for the exact same reason and used the same exact solution. I have that feeling that it’s not that uncommon amongst we jewelers/metalsmithers.

I suffered terribly from TMJ. I clenched my teeth at my desk and ground at night. The treatment that worked for me was an acrylic appliance made by an appliance specialist (worth it!) and self-training at my desk to insert the tip of my tongue between my teeth, just to cause a slight separation. I still do it, unconsciously, now. The appliance was only for sleeping, to prevent grinding. What a relief! Note: Keep you appliance away from the dog. They love to chew them up. The problem with a soft mouth guard is that we want to bite on it. They’re so thick and squishy. They usually just exacerbate the problem.

I feel your pain - I had a full j

I feel your pain had a full TMJ operation 2 years ago for osteo arthritis - ( no mandibles on both sides) I find jewellery relaxing & it takes me away from stress - I turn music on & relax - - it works for me but getting a mouth guard would work too - take care :kissing_heart:

Hey. Do I know what you are talking about. I have had TMJ for almost 40 years and have been through surgeries, braces, expensive devices, etc. I find that the secret is like for migraines, you have to be aware of your body, specifically your jaw, and at the first signs of pain you have to go into treatment mode. If you don’t get it early you are in for a long and painful bout. Like many chronic pain problems it is a matter of managing and avoiding flare ups. As far as prevention, I do meditation, I set an alarm for every half hour to do a quick stretch (like a yoga Lion - google it, super easy) and a bit of a massage of the muscles from the temple down to the shoulder at the back. Look up the Sternocleidomastoid muscle. Get someone to massage it for you regularly. That muscle is infamous for stress and is directly attached to the TMJ. The biggest thing is to train yourself not to clench. Chewing gum or putting something in your mouth over your molars so you notice it when you clench and you can relax the muscles instead. It requires some work and determination on your part, but if you don’t want a lifetime of pain, do something about it now. All the best.

40 yrs ago they took bone from your ribs to replace jaw. Osteo arthritis had destroyed my joints in my face. Two titanium new joints - had physio to open mouth again - six weeks wired, two 12 hr ops this is what it can lead to.TMJ
Anyway Kenna I prefer to talk jeweller was just commiserating.