Temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, dysfunction causes pain in the joints on either side of your head where your jawbone connects with your skull. If you suffer from TMJ dysfunction you may have difficulty chewing or even talking, or may suffer from headaches or earaches. Sometimes the pain only lasts a few days and subsides with rest, but some people suffer from chronic TMJ discomfort. An injury or congenital malformation may lead to the condition, but in some people, the cause is less clear. Mineral deficiencies, including magnesium, may contribute to the severity of TMJ disorder.
Your body uses magnesium to build bones, muscles and other cells, and it plays a role in hundreds of metabolic functions. Magnesium helps your body absorb calcium and is an important nutrient for bone density. The average adult has about 25 g of magnesium in his body. Your body doesn't make magnesium, so you need to get it from outside sources. Nuts, leafy greens and molasses are sources of magnesium. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has set recommended daily allowances for magnesium at 400 mg for men and 310 mg for women ages 19 to 30 and 420 mg for men older than 30 and 320 mg for women older than 30.
TMJ and Magnesium
A 2008 Baylor University Medical Center study of 23 women with severe, painful TMJ found that 22 percent had magnesium deficiencies. These patients also suffered from other nutrient deficiencies, including deficiencies in iron, vitamin C and vitamin B-6. The researchers concluded that poor diet or the inability to absorb nutrients contributed to the severity of the TMJ disorder. The University of Maryland Medical Center says that calcium and magnesium supplements are often used to treat TMJ dysfunction, though no scientific evidence exists of their exact role in alleviating the disease.
Other TMJ Treatment
Your first avenue of treatment for TMJ disorder is to allow the jaw to rest. Your doctor may prescribe a soft-foods diet for several weeks. Refrain from chewing gum, eating ice or any other habits that put pressure on your jaw. If teeth grinding contributes to your pain, your doctor may prescribe a night guard to help prevent it. In more severe cases, anti-inflammatory drugs or steroids may be helpful.
The Role of Supplements
Your doctor can perform blood work to determine if you are deficient in magnesium and other nutrients. A balanced diet that includes plenty of leafy greens and whole grains may help you get better nutrition, or you may benefit from a supplement. The primary side effect of taking too much magnesium is diarrhea. Magnesium is used in laxatives. The Food and Nutrition Board advises an upper level of magnesium from supplements at no more than 350 mg a day for adults.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction
- Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute; Magnesium; Jane Higdon and Victoria Drake; August 2007
- Baylor University Medical Center; Serum Nutrient Deficiencies in the Patient with Complex Temporomandibular Joint Problems; Pushkar Mehra and Larry Wolford; July 2008