Temporomandibular disorder (TMD)

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


Symptoms

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.

Things you can try

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

How to make your own ice packs and heat packs

Try either:

  • a pack of frozen peas, wrapped in a tea towel, for no more than 5 minutes at a time, or
  • a hot water bottle, wrapped in a tea towel, twice a day for 15 to 20 minutes

When to get medical help

See a 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

A GP may suggest:

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

A 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 do not help, you may be referred to a specialist in joint problems to discuss other options, such as painkilling injections or surgery.

Causes of temporomandibular disorder (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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