hands holding a variety of supplement pillsPeople with temporomandibular joint disorders (commonly called either TMJ or TMD) can be painful and disabling. However, many cases of TMJ are actually relatively minor. These types of TMJ don’t need professional care. You might resolve them on your own with reasonable home care.

However, there’s a difference between effective home care and many of the recommendations out there as “home remedies” for TMJ. In particular, people often recommend “natural supplements” for home care that have little or no evidence of effectiveness. The Naples, FL, TMJ dentists at the Massa Dental Center want to help you get effective relief for your TMJ symptoms. Therefore, we want to help you avoid natural supplements that can’t help your condition.

The Problem with Natural Supplements

Many people in Naples, FL, think that there’s no potential harm in taking natural supplements, also called dietary supplements by the FDA. After all, they’re natural and therefore “safe.” However, there are some potentially significant risks related to natural supplements. Think of it this way: anything with the power to heal could also have the power to harm.

Natural supplements aren’t regulated the way drugs are. The FDA doesn’t approve dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness. The agency doesn’t have the authority to approve labeling, either. The only significant requirement natural supplements have is a basic label, including serving size and the supposed amounts of effective ingredients in each serving.

With little evidence about potential risks, it’s best to limit your natural supplements to those that have some evidence of effectiveness. Even then, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor in Naples before starting any new supplement.

Glucosamine: Fantasy

Glucosamine is an amino sugar that is commonly found in human joints. This includes the cartilage disc and the synovial fluid around the joints. It’s often recommended for people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis to counteract the joint damage and associated pain in these conditions.

About a decade ago, one small study seemed to imply that glucosamine might be as effective as ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for reducing TMJ pain. However, more recent research, including a systematic review and a randomized clinical trial, suggests that glucosamine is more likely similar to placebo in its effectiveness. (Notably, the 2013 study that showed effectiveness did not have a placebo or control other than ibuprofen.)

The good news is that glucosamine is relatively safe, except for the risk of allergic reactions because much of it comes from shellfish.

Chondroitin Sulfate: Fantasy (Probably)

Chondroitin, like glucosamine, is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in the joints. It is one of the major components of cartilage. The thought is that taking in more of the compound could help the body rebuild cartilage damaged by arthritis.

Chondroitin is commonly combined with glucosamine in the role of arthritis treatment, including TMJ treatment. Few studies focus exclusively on chondroitin, which makes it hard to separate out the effects. We’re reserving judgment on this one a little because it wasn’t included in the 2018 systematic review that found glucosamine was not superior to placebo. However, it was included in the randomized clinical trial that showed glucosamine had no effect on jaw joint healing.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fact

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated acids defined by the location of a double bond three atoms away from the end of the carbon chain in their structure. There are many claims as to the potential effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. Not all of them have good evidence supporting them. At this point, however, it seems that omega-3 fatty acids can combat inflammation. Since inflammation is a common cause of TMJ-related jaw pain, taking omega-3 fatty acids might be helpful. Omega-3 fatty acids also seem to help improve the structure and function of arthritic jaw joints.

However, you should note that omega-3 fatty acids’ anti-inflammatory effects are long-term. They are not a substitute for NSAIDs as an acute pain reliever. If you develop TMJ pain that you manage to control and eliminate with home care, omega-3 fatty acids might help prevent the return of future pain.

It’s also important to note that future studies might reveal that these effects are more related to the design of studies than the actual effectiveness of the treatment.

Turmeric: Fantasy

As a spice, turmeric can add both a punch of color and a peppery flavor. It’s responsible for the ongoing and growing popularity of curry worldwide. However, as a natural supplement, turmeric’s benefits seem to be overblown. There is little evidence that turmeric as a natural supplement can combat TMJ symptoms.

There is some theoretical analysis of extracts of curcumin (an active ingredient in turmeric) as a potential anti-inflammatory to protect the TMJ against damage. There is also a very small study in animals that hints curcumin extract might help joint healing. However, to match the dosage given to the rats in this study, the average person would have to take far more extract than recommended by manufacturers. It’s best to wait until we have some real evidence to support efficacy.

Effective TMJ Treatment in Naples, FL

If you are suffering from TMJ symptoms in Naples, FL, we understand that you feel the need to get treatment. The pain can be hard to deal with, and limited jaw function or locked jaw can make it hard to function. However, don’t be fooled by claims about natural supplements like these. Instead, talk to a Naples, FL TMJ dentist about effective approaches to TMJ relief.

Please call (239) 597-7333 or use our online form to schedule an appointment at the Massa Dental Center in Naples, FL, located off Vanderbilt Beach Road near the Tiburon Golf Course.