TMJ Syndrome and Chronic Pain, Plus Natural Pain Relief

By Bill Wolfe D.D.S.

Symptoms, then, are in reality nothing but a cry from suffering organs. ~ Jean-Martin Charcot MD (1825 – 1893) French neurologist and professor of anatomical pathology.

Approximately 40 percent of all healthy individuals suffer from chronic headaches. One out of eight people suffer from headaches so severe that they cannot function normally. Often these problems are related to a common cause of chronic pain: TMJ Syndrome.

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. This joint allows the jaw to open, close, move backward and forward, and from side to side. “TMJ syndrome” refers to a malpositioning of the respective jaw structures and associated muscles. This condition results in muscle contractions, which are a factor in approximately 80 percent of all tension related headaches. Some 75 million Americans are affected, but only about five percent are actually diagnosed correctly and treated.

If you have any of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from TMJ Syndrome:

  • Headaches, earaches and sinus pain
  • Dizziness and/or lightheadedness
  • Ringing, buzzing or clogged ears
  • Pain, spasms or tightening in the neck, shoulders, or face
  • Clicking or popping noises when opening or closing the jaw
  • Inability to open the mouth fully
  • Locking of the jaw joint
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Loss of upper body strength with teeth closed

Only the lower jaw (mandible) moves via the TMJ; the upper jaw (maxilla) is a fixed part of the skull. Where the teeth close together the best determines the position of the mandible, which may or may not be where the muscles and ligaments want to be. The muscles will assume whatever position is dictated by the teeth.

Muscles are composed of bundles of muscle fibers, which have a certain resting length at which they operate the best – their “physiological rest position.” At this position, the muscles are in their most relaxed and strongest position. If not, the muscle fibers will be tensed. This tense contraction impedes blood circulation and energy flow, resulting in muscle spasms and cramping.

In treating TMJ, there are those dentists who use only the anatomical landmarks of the skull in its relationship to the lower jaw and those, such as myself, who use the “neuromuscular” concept, which focuses on where the muscles want the jaw to be, instead of where the teeth want the jaw to be. An acrylic “splint” can then be fabricated, fitting over the lower teeth, altering the way the upper and lower teeth fit together, relocating the jaw to the “physiological rest position” of the muscles. The patient then responds better to other treatments (physical therapy, chiropractic, craniosacral, etc.), to assist their recovery and help eliminate muscle trigger points, and adapt to the new jaw positioning.

When muscles begin to relax, the patient will notice that when not wearing the splint, the teeth no longer fit together in the same way, as the jaw is adapting to its new relaxed muscular positioning. Therefore, the final phase of TMJ treatment is to alter the way in which the teeth fit together, so that the patient’s jaw is in the physiological rest position, even when not wearing the splint, eliminating fatigue, cramping and other associated symptoms.

TMJ syndrome can cause a lifetime of suffering. However, through increased awareness and appropriate treatment, the quality of life for people with this syndrome can be greatly enhanced.

From Shirley MacLaine’s recent book, Above the Line:

“Some seventy-five million Americans are affected by TMJ syndrome, but only about 5 percent of all TMJ patients are actually diagnosed correctly and treated for their problem. I am one of them. Luckily, I found Dr. Bill Wolfe, who constructed a customized splint that I wear over the top of my lower teeth to alter the way the upper and lower jaw fit together to stabilize my entire spinal column. I wear it twenty-four hours a day except when eating. Thanks to the brilliance of Dr. Wolfe, my long-standing back pain and neck pain, the result of decades of overuse as a dancer, has resolved itself. I’m achieving long-term correction and stability of my spine and enjoying dramatic relief of my chronic pain that I was convinced was going to require surgical intervention. Instead, perhaps the creative expression from my voice had to be balanced with the earth-plane stability of my teeth and muscles in my mouth.”

I have had chronic TMJ issues for many years. As a result, I have broken several teeth and have had pain in my jaw, back and neck for around 20 years or more. I started seeing Dr. Wolfe upon recommendation of Dr. Pamela Costello, MD, Holistic Neurological Medicine, whom I am seeing for chronic health issues. Dr. Wolfe recommended a splint to correct my bite. When I began wearing it, my jaws were a bit sore as the splint was actually realigning my bite! Within just a few days or more, I noticed a significant difference in the lack of soreness and tension in my jaw. Also, my back, neck and shoulders felt more aligned with less muscle stress. There was even improvement in my posture! Obviously, I am so blessed to have met Dr. Wolfe and to have experienced pain relief beyond TMJ issues. He is truly knowledgable in dentistry and overall health. Thanks, Dr. Wolfe!

Erica, Johnson City, TN

I’ve been wearing my splint for a couple months now to help correct my TMJ. I have a prominent curve in my spine, and I have noticed that after a couple of weeks of wearing the splint, that I was not feeling the torque in my body from the curve in my spine. I started feeling much stronger and confident especially after doing my PT work and getting my chiropractic adjustments done.

Another thing I noticed was that before the splint I would tend to lean on one foot more than the other when standing due to the spinal curvature and misaligned pelvis. Now I feel balanced when I stand, and I don’t lean on one leg anymore. I also used to get at least a couple headaches a week before the splint and now I barely get any at all, and it’s great! Dr. Wolfe is an amazing person and he knows how to explain and help you throughout the journey in ways so that you can understand what’s fully going on with your body.

Victoria, Johnson City, TN

For many years I have experienced severe neck and shoulder pain despite regular chiropractic care. I attended a demonstration of holistic dental practitioner, Dr. Bill Wolfe and learned of his amazing work using dental splints to align the jaw. This, in turn, helps the spine to align more completely and aide the body to heal itself. I wore the splint for a few months and was delighted when my pain level reduced significantly! On a scale of 1-10, my pain level was as high as 8 before the splint and is now a level 2-3. I am very pleased with my progress and expect to see continued improvement.
I highly recommend Dr. Wolfe’s holistic dentistry practice.

N. W., Virgina

“I love my mouthpiece!”

Jamie Hyatt, RN, Elizabethton

TMJ Syndrome, although not a threat to longevity, can cause a lifetime of suffering. However, with proper diagnosis and treatment, the quality of life for people with this syndrome can be greatly enhanced.

Dr.Wolfe graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1968 and received his dental degree from Baylor College of Dentistry in 1972.

Dr. Wolfe practices in Johnson City, Tennessee, focusing on “Biological Dentistry,” which includes the principles of kinesiology and homeopathy.

Dr. Wolfe is also a board-certified naturopathic physician, and an international speaker. His speaking engagements include: The British Homeopathic Dental Association; The International College of Applied Kinesiology; and the International Association of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, Royal Society of Medicine, to name just a few.

Call my office: 423-461-0073 for a complimentary TMJ evaluation or visit for more information.