Temporomandibular disorder

Last updated:

Reviewed by:

Dr Bryony Henderson

, Lead GP at Livi

Medically reviewed

Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is a condition that stops the jaw moving normally. Learn more about the signs, symptoms and treatments.

What is temporomandibular disorder?

TMD is a condition that causes pain, irritation and stiffness around your jaw, ear and temple (the side of your head). The temporomandibular joint is the hinge of your jaw.

What are the symptoms of temporomandibular disorder?

Some of the main symptoms of TMD include:

  • Pain near jaw and temple, especially in the morning or late afternoon

  • Ear pain

  • Tenderness around the jaw

  • Headache around the temple

  • Clicking, grinding or popping when you open or close the jaw

  • Locking of the jaw after opening your mouth

What are the causes of temporomandibular disorder?

The reason someone gets TMD isn’t always clear, but possible causes include:

  • Clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth – this overworks the jaw muscles causing irritation inside the jaw joint

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Injury

Risk factors that can increase your chances of developing TMD include:

  • Having rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis

  • Long term teeth grinding

  • Having a condition that affects connective tissues, such as lupus

How common is temporomandibular disorder?

TMD affects up to a third of the population, and evidence suggests women are more likely to get TMD than men.

How is temporomandibular disorder diagnosed?

A doctor will ask you about your symptoms and take a look at your jaw. They may listen for certain telltale sounds when opening or closing your mouth. In some cases, you may need to have imaging done, such as an X-ray or CT scan.

How is temporomandibular disorder treated?

There are a variety of ways to treat TMD. Some at-home remedies include:

  • Eat soft foods such as pasta

  • Take over the counter pain relief such as paracetamol or ibuprofen

  • Use ice packs or heat packs, depending on which feels better

  • Massage your jaw muscles

  • Purchase a pillow designed to support those with TMD

You should also avoid behaviours that may worsen TMD, including:

  • Chewing gum

  • Yawning very widely

  • Biting your nails

  • Clenching teeth when not eating

  • Using your hand to support your chin

Some medications your dentist or GP may prescribe are:

  • Stronger pain relief

  • Tricyclic antidepressants to relieve pain

  • Muscle relaxants to reduce the spasms that can cause TMD

  • A dental splint to cover some of your teeth and prevent grinding

In some cases, surgical treatment is an option. Some procedures used to treat TMD include:

  • Arthrocentesis – Insertion of a small needle to remove excess fluid to get rid of substances causing or formed by inflammation

  • Injections – Botox may be injected into the jaw to relieve the pain

  • Open joint surgery – Surgery to repair the jaw if a structural problem is causing TMD

How long does temporomandibular joint disorder last?

TMD tends to improve after around 3 weeks. If it persists longer, further treatment may be needed.

When should I talk to a doctor?

If you think you are suffering from temporomandibular disorder, first see your dentist to determine if the problem is being caused by the teeth. If this is not the case, see your GP and it is most likely they will recommend some at home remedies.

How can Livi help?

A Livi doctor can talk to you about your symptoms and give you advice on the next best steps.

Last updated:
Reviewed by:
Dr Bryony Henderson, Lead GP at Livi