Temporomandibular disorder (TMD)

Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is a problem affecting the 'chewing' muscles and the joints between the lower jaw and the base of the skull.

Temporomandibular disorder is a condition affecting the movement of the jaw. It's not usually serious and generally gets better on its own.

Check if you have TMD

Signs of TMD include:

  • pain around your jaw, ear and temple
  • clicking, popping or grinding noises when you move your jaw
  • a headache around your temples
  • difficulty opening your mouth fully
  • your jaw locking when you open your mouth

The pain may be worse when chewing and when you feel stressed.

TMD can also stop you getting a good night's sleep.

How to ease TMD yourself

There are some simple things you can do to try to reduce your jaw pain.

Do

  • eat soft food, like pasta, omelettes and soup
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • hold ice packs or heat packs to the jaw, whichever feels better
  • massage the painful jaw muscles
  • try to find ways to relax

Don't

  • do not chew gum or pen tops
  • do not bite food with your front teeth
  • do not yawn too wide
  • do not bite your nails
  • do not clench your teeth – apart from when eating, your teeth should be apart
  • do not rest your chin on your hand

See your GP if:

  • you're unable to eat or drink
  • the pain is affecting your life
  • the pain is affecting your sleep
  • the pain and discomfort keep coming back

Treatment from a GP

Your GP may suggest:

  • stronger painkillers
  • relaxation techniques to reduce stress
  • ways to improve your sleep

Your GP might suggest you see:

  • a dentist, if teeth grinding might be an issue
  • a psychologist, if stress and anxiety are making your pain worse

If these treatments don't help, you may be referred to a specialist in joint problems to discuss other options, such as painkilling injections or surgery.

Causes of TMD

TMD can be caused by:

  • teeth grinding
  • wear and tear of the joint
  • a blow to the head or face
  • stress
  • an uneven bite

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