Treatment Options for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Temporomandibular joint disorder is a very common medically treatable and self-diagnosable condition that causes jaw pain and makes movement of the jaw difficult. There are more than 3 million new cases of temporomandibular joint disorder every year, in the United States alone.

Overview of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Your jaw is connected to the side of your head (temporal bones) by the temporomandibular joint. Your temporal bones are located directly in front of each of your ears. The temporomandibular joint enables jaw movement, allowing you to chew, yawn and even talk. Temporomandibular joint disorder occurs when your temporomandibular joint no longer functions correctly.

Symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder (also called TMD or TMJ Dysfunction) can be as strange as a change in how your teeth fit together to as severe as pain traveling the entirety of your face, including your jaw and your neck. Other symptoms include jaw muscles which are stiff or have limited movement, or even the jaw locking up completely. A person with TMD may also have a “popping” in their jaw which may or may not be painful.

Although dentists are not absolutely sure on what causes temporomandibular joint disorder, they do believe TMD can arise from other problems that affect the jaw. Common pre-disorders can be caused by an injury to any area of the head and neck, including the jaw and face. Whiplash is a common pre-disorder for temporomandibular joint disorder. Other pre-disorders for TMJ Dysfunction could be arthritis in the temporomandibular joint, a tightening of the muscles surrounding the joint caused by stress, and grinding your teeth, usually, though not always, while sleeping.

Any person, of any age, can be affected by TMJ Dysfunction, but the majority of people diagnosed are of the ages 19 and older, with the majority of them being 20 – 40 years of age, and most commonly – women.

Treatments for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

1. Surgical Treatment

NOTE: Surgery to treat temporomandibular joint disorder is absolutely the last resort. Surgery is actually not recommended for treatment, because the side effects are generally worse than the actual situation. There are a few surgeries that are used for osteoarthritis but still only as a very last resort. That said, the following is a limited list of possible surgeries for treatment of TMD.

2. Non-Surgical Treatment

3. Natural Remedies

4. Other Home Remedies

5. Exercises

Exercises can be used for stretching the jaw muscle, in an attempt to loosen the temporomandibular joint. Do these exercises in a slow and controlled manner.



Passive Exercises

  1. Watch yourself, in a mirror, and open mouth slowly. Make sure you are opening your mouth in a straight line. Hold for a short moment. Do not push yourself.
  2. Watch yourself, in a mirror, and open mouth slowly. Move bottom jaw slowly right and then left. Be sure to used controlled and slow movements, and do exercise in a straight line. Repeat throughout the day.
  3. Click your tongue. Do this repeatedly with mouth closed and then with it opened. Again, do this slowly, in control and in a straight line.

Active Exercises


  1. With thumb, carefully stretch your bottom jaw. Hold for 30 seconds. Do this 5 or 6 times.
  2. Hold your fist under chin. Try to slowly open your mouth against your fist. Repeat up to 10 times. You can do this exercise a couple times a day. Only do this exercise if you are not currently in pain.
  3. Lightly clench your jaw for a count of five and relax. Do this about ten times, stopping if you feel pain.

TIP: See your dentist if you believe you have any symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder. This disorder is treatable and the sooner you begin treatment, the sooner the pain can be relieved.

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