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
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
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?
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:
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.
- Reviewed by:
- Dr Bryony Henderson, Lead GP at Livi