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Bone, Muscle, and Joint Problems

Temporomandibular (TM) Disorder

Prevention - Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

The temporomandibular (TM) joint is the joint in front of the ear that connects the lower jawbone (mandible) to the skull. Pain and discomfort in the jaw muscles and TM joint is called temporomandibular disorder (TM disorder).

The symptoms of TM disorder can include:

The most common cause of TM disorder is tension in the jaw, neck, and shoulder muscles. This can be brought on by stress or by habits such as clenching or grinding your teeth. TM disorder can also occur when there is a problem, such as arthritis, in the joint itself.

Home Treatment and nonsurgical treatments will successfully relieve most TM symptoms. Your doctor may recommend use of a plastic mouth plate (splint), physical therapy, or prescription pain relievers. Surgery is needed for a very small percentage of TM problems.

Pain and discomfort in the jaw muscles and jaw joint is called temporo-mandibular disorder.


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The key to preventing TM disorder is to reduce muscle tension in your jaw. You can reduce muscle tension with these steps:

  • Relax. If you have a lot of stress and anxiety in your life, try relaxation techniques (See Relaxation Skills).

  • Do not bite your nails or cradle the telephone receiver between your shoulder and jaw.

  • Stop chewing gum or tough foods at the first sign of pain or discomfort in your jaw muscles.

  • Change your diet. Eat softer foods, and use both sides of your mouth to chew your food.

  • Maintain good posture. Poor posture may disturb the natural alignment between your facial bones and muscles and cause pain.

  • Get regular dental checkups.

Home Treatment

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  • Continue the Prevention tips.

  • Avoid opening your mouth too wide.

  • Rest your jaw, keeping your teeth apart and your lips closed. (Keep your tongue on the roof of your mouth, not between your teeth.)

  • Put an ice pack on the joint for 8 minutes, 3 times a day. Gently open and close your mouth while the ice pack is on. If the jaw muscle is swollen, apply ice 6 times a day.

  • Take aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce swelling and pain.

  • If there is no swelling, use moist heat on the jaw muscle 3 times a day. Gently open and close your mouth while the heat is on. Alternate with the cold pack treatments.

  • If you are under severe stress or suffer from anxiety or depression, see.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • If the pain is severe.

  • If TM symptoms occur after an injury to the jaw.

  • If your jaw locks in certain positions.

  • If any jaw problem or pain continues more than 2 weeks without improvement.

  • If you have noticed a change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth.

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