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Treatment Experiences: Mouthguards

I am not a teeth grinder, but I am most certainly a teeth clincher. I sometimes wake from sleep with a jaw so tight it pops audibly when I try to open my mouth. It’s rare these days, but sometimes during episodes of extreme stress my teeth themselves have been in slight pain from the friction caused by the top and bottom rows mashing together while I concentrate on work or, more frequently, sleep fitfully.

I’m not the only migraineur out there with a TMD (temporomandibular disorder)—I’m sure many of you reading this deal with TMD/TMJ as well. I’ve blogged about this before and have heard from several of you that you have suffered the same ailment. I haven’t actively tried to treat it in years, though I used to. I’ve had the strange experience of having my most trusted massage therapist don rubber gloves and reach into my mouth to massage my cheek and manipulate my jaw slightly to relieve some of the tension. (It was a little weird but I felt like a million bucks afterward—at least until the next morning after I woke from another teeth-clenching night.)

A dentist recommended a mouth guard, but the cost was prohibitively expensive. When he left the room, the dental hygienist told me that many of their patients actually got one of the higher-end mouth guards used by athletes. So I tried it.

I bought my mouth guard at a sports store and followed the instructions to make it fit my mouth as snugly as possible. This involved dropping it in boiling water for x number of seconds, pulling it out to let it cool, and then putting it back in my mouth and shutting my jaw so that the mold would form.

For awhile, I wore the thing nightly. I noticed a decrease in TMJ pain but not a decrease in the number of frequency of my migraines. Like most treatments and things I treat as fads, I eventually gave up on it and it’s in the bathroom cabinet alongside the other now-dismissed treatment options I may one day pick up again.

Have any of you been diagnosed with TMD/TMJ? How does it affect your migraine cycles? And have you tried using a mouth guard as I did?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Not Carly Simon
    7 years ago

    I actually had this over the holidays. I work retail and spent most of the time in the Toy Department. It was very fast paced and very stressful. I started waking up with pain in my jaw and a headache. I couldn’t figure about why until I woke up to go to the bathroom and realized that my jaw was clenched as tight as it could be. Question answered. I bought an anti grinding mouth guard and wore it for a week or so. At the end of the week, I wasn’t clenching anymore so I didn’t need it. I don’t know if it was the holidays ending or retraining myself with the guard that finally did it but it was sure a relief.

  • Maya R
    7 years ago

    I too suffer from teeth clenching and grinding. Have any of you heard of Trudenta? I’ve been curious to know if it’s just a gimmick or if it could really provide relief?

  • vickigewe
    7 years ago

    I have TMJ and tried many extensive treatments by a prosthedontist to try to fix it. I should add that my insurance considers TMJ to be dental and not medical, so my parents were paying out of their pockets. I wore several night guards and even a couple that I wore all day long, but they didn’t do much benefit. He even ground down some of my teeth to adjust my bite, but with little success.

    When the specialtist wanted to use a mouth guard that would have completely reset the position of my jaw and thus would later require an surgeon to break my jaw and reset it, I met with an oral surgeon to see if my insurance would cover that at least. He said that since the surgery usually CAUSES TMJ, he didn’t think it wise and referred me to the top TMJ specialist at UCLA, who took one look at my MRI and said I suffered from arthritic damage, which is untreatable, and what’s more, no credible doctor would treat TMJ the way my prosthedontist wanted to do.

    But he also told me that while in some instances TMJ can influence migraines, a belief that is not shared by many headache doctors, mine was 90% likely not to be affecting mine based upon the way my face carried my tension.

    I later discovered that my mouth guards themselves had been making my TMJ worse, as I couldn’t even eat a Subway sandwich in fitting the whole thing in my mouth while using them, but when I quit, my ability to open my mouth greatly improved!

    So if you have migraines and TMJ/TMD, I’d recommend having an expert examine your bite and what tension you do carry in your face before spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on treatment that you are only pursuing in order to get relief for your migraines!

  • janenez
    7 years ago

    I can’t sleep without my mouth guard that I got from my dentist. It was expensive, but I’ve neverregretted it. I am a tension clencher. If I try to sleep without it, I will have jaw pain that usually leads to a migraine. I would definitely recommend you try it if you are a clencher or grinder and can afford it. Shop around – there are different types/costs. Mine is a hard plastic molded type for the top teeth. It has lasted 6 years so far.

  • Elaine Gross
    7 years ago

    I’ve had TMJ for many years, and have been wearing a guard at night. Years ago it resembled the kind that athletes use, very big and not too comfortable. Now I have one with a clip on either side of my upper teeth with plastic over the molars and roof of my mouth. They now have a small guard that clips on the front of the lower teeth. I understand it’s more comfortable and pretty affordable. I go for my teeth cleaning soon and am going to order one. I’m hoping it’s even more comfortable than the one I have. I remember years ago how painful the jaw/face pain was, and how annoying the clicking was. It was also annoying to my family who complained about it when I ate. That’s how bad it was!

  • Tammy
    7 years ago

    My chiropractor uses an activator to adjust my jaw and other bones of the face and head. It does help break a nasty migraine cycle sometimes. He keeps telling me to get a mouth guard, but I haven’t found one I can stick with. I always feel like I’m biting down too hard on the mouthpiece and I end up waking up with more pain from having used it.

  • Mproctor
    7 years ago

    I have TMJ. My jaw falls out of place when I sleep with my mouth open. I have a very old retainer that keeps me from grinding, and it usually helps me keep my mouth closed. In the fall when the leaves start falling, and the mold/mildew begins to grow… sinus trouble begins & the mouth breathing begins. When my mouth is open, my jaw falls out. Sometimes I have to physically push it shut, like the article said, with an audible pop. This will trigger a migraine, and in my case, usually a vaso vagel episode.

  • Mproctor
    7 years ago

    I forgot to mention that my chiropractor will massage & manipulate my jaw. It feels better for weeks afterward if I can keep the sinuses under control.

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