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More Case Studies on how Acupuncture helps aid TMJ

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choicefamilydentistry's picture
Joined: 7 Jun 2016

When a patient tells you “I am having pretty bad headaches, pain in my jaw, even pain in my neck and back” or maybe they have “clicking” or “popping” in the jaw we know this has to deal with TMD (TMJ). Some patients are confused by this and some patients understand the symptoms and need to aid their TMD as soon as possible, but have you noticed what has stopped or prolonged their aiding procedure is how invasive and expensive surgery can be and most patients are tired of having to take extra Advil or pills to aid the symptoms. Maybe physical therapy s working and sometimes it only works for a couple moments and then the pain comes back with revenge at times!


However, have you ever considered Traditional Chinese Medicine? Specifically Acupuncture. We have, and the results have been amazing! I would love to share some case studies with you so you can consider this method, recommend it, or just look into it a little more.


The materials and methods used to evaluate and record the case studies was a K-7 computer-aided occlusal evaluation system. Electrodes were attached on the temporalis anterior and masseter muscles bilaterally after the areas were cleaned with alcohol swabs. We recorded the electrical activity for about 15 seconds. The next step was providing Acupuncture treatment with three distal points (SJ 3, GB 34, LI 4) for 10-30 minutes. Here were two case studies I would love to share:




A 59-year-old female patient complained of severe migraine attacks on the left temple area 5-6 times a month for over 30 years. Many medical doctors gave her treatment, but her migraine attacks continued without relief. The initial examination showed over 100% overbite on the front teeth and bilateral TMJ clicking. The TMJ clicking was observed to occur more on the left side than the right side and the right side back molars no contact during her normal chewing and swallowing.


EMG Scans 9 and 10 were recorded before the acupuncture treatment according to the procedure discussed in method section. Acupuncture was given on the right side only with SJ 3, GB 34, LI 4. Scan 11 was taken ten minutes after the acupuncture needles were inserted.


The average electrical activity of the left temporalis anterior in resting was 1.6uV and the right temporalis was 0.8uV in Scan 9. The first line of graph shows electrical activity of the left temporalis anterior (LTA). The next line is right temporalis anterior (RTA) and the 3rd and 4th is for the left and right masseter muscles (LMM, RMM). Only the temporalis anterior muscles will be discussed in this study.


These values increased to 18.1uV and 2.9uV respectively when the patient lightly bit down on the back molars in scan 10.


The average electrical activity of the left temporalis anterior muscle decreased to 3.1uV and the right temporalis anterior muscle decreased to 2.4uV after acupuncture treatment was given on the right side.


The decreased electrical activity of the left temporalis muscle from 18.1uV to 3.1uV strongly suggests effectiveness of the acupuncture treatment on the contralateral side. The slight decrease in electrical activity on the right temporalis muscle from 2.9uV to 2.4uV may be explained by a synergistic action of muscle activity that resulted from muscle relaxation on the left side. This objective data confirmed the patient’s subjective reports of relief from headache that she communicated while receiving acupuncture treatment.




Scan 9 showed EMG activity of 1.6uV on the left side and 0.8uV on the right side. Scan 10 clearly shows an increase in EMG activity when the patient occluded his teeth, but greater increase on the left side (18.1uV). Scan 11 showed that EMG activity decreased to 31uV (-82.9%) on the left side and to 2.4uV (-17.3%) on the right side when acupuncture treatment was applied only on the right side.






A 56-year-old female patient reported severe bruxism and a right earache that had persisted for over 10 years. Though physicians informed the patient that she had normal right ear function, her earache continued with no relief. The dental examination revealed clicking of the TMJ significantly more on the right side. In addition to the clicking, the patient’s teeth were flat and worn down and she could only occlude one side of her back molars at one time.


Scan 9 shows stable temporalis muscles on both sides. Scan 10 was recorded with a light occlusion, the first half with the left side molars and the second half with the right side molars. The right temporalis was higher than the left side whether the patient occluded the right or left molars, which explained the patient’s persistent right earache.


Acupuncture treatment was given bilaterally for 20 minutes. The first half of Scan 11 recorded left side occlusion and second half of the scan recorded right side occlusion.


A significant decrease in EMG activity in both temporalis anterior muscles was observed after application of acupuncture treatment. The acupuncture treatment was applied to both sides simultaneously in order to observe the bilateral response.


This case is unique because the patient was only able to occlude one side of her back teeth at a time. At rest without occlusion, Scan 9 showed an EMG activity reading of 1.0uV on the left side and 1.4uV on the right side. Scan 10 shows general increases in EMG activity regardless of whether the patient occluded her right or left side teeth. EMG activity on the left side increased to 1.4uV when occluding the left back teeth and 1.5uV when she occluded the right side back teeth. EMG activity on the right side increased to 3.9uV when occluding the left side back teeth and 3.4uV when occluding the right back teeth. The higher the EMG activity readings on the right side, regardless of occlusion side, explain the patient’s subjective complaints of a persistent right earache.


Scan 11 shows decreases in EMG activity on both sides regardless of whether the patient occluded her right or left side teeth. EMG activity on the left side decreased to 1.1uV when occluding the back left teeth and 0.8uV when occluding the back right teeth. EMG activity on the right side decreased to 1.4uV when occluding the left back teeth and 2.0 when occluding the right back teeth. On average, this represents a 34.4%decrease in EMG activity on the left side and 53.4% decrease on the right side post-bilateral acupuncture treatment.





These case studies lets us know, through the EMG activity readings, that acupuncture treatment strongly affirm the effectiveness of the acupuncture treatment. It also shows that the symptoms of earache, migraines, neck & shoulder pain, and TMJ can be treated with acupuncture treatment.


This study was done by a Rancho Cucamonga Dentist, Dr.Andrea Choi, who currently practices dentistry and acupuncture in her private practice in Rancho Cucamonga.

Creating comfort for your smile.

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Creating comfort for your smile.