It’s a quirky home remedy that really works. Holding a pencil between your teeth can reduce or even eliminate pain from a tension headache and relax the temporalis muscle. But not everyone will see relief, and for some people it might cause more harm than good.

attractive woman biting a pencil

Why the Pencil Trick Works

When your jaw is not in a comfortable, relaxed position, tension can build up in the temporalis muscle, and that tension can be passed on to other muscles in the head. This leads to widespread tension headaches. TMJ can even contribute to migraines because the trigger point for migraines, the trigeminal nerve, is interwoven with the muscles of the jaw, carrying commands to them, and pain signals back to the brain. TMJ-related tension can either pinch the trigeminal nerve or overwhelm it, triggering a migraine.

The remedy of holding a pencil in your teeth–but not biting down on it–can put your jaw in a more relaxed position. This can help reduce the tension in your head and give relief to your jaw tension headache.

Why It Can Make Things Worse

Unfortunately, successful headache relief isn’t always as simple as just putting a pencil between your teeth. The pencil helps reposition your jaw, and for many people we can say that it puts the jaw in a more comfortable position.

However, it’s hardly a precise treatment, and for some people the pencil might actually put the jaw in a more uncomfortable position. Regular use of the pencil trick might lead to more tension in the long run, tension in different muscles, or may contribute to tension and damage to the jaw joint. This all becomes worse if people improperly bite down on the pencil, which will also contribute to tooth damage.

You can try the pencil trick, but if it works, you don’t want to rely on it long-term. Instead, schedule an appointment with a TMJ dentist, who can determine the proper position for your jaw and develop a custom bite splint that will relieve tension in your jaw, headaches, and other TMJ symptoms while promoting jaw joint health.

For an appointment with a Tulsa TMJ dentist, please call élan by Dr. Meghan Hodges at (918) 528-3330.