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How do I manage temporomandibular disorder (TMD) on a daily basis?

There are several treatments for TMJ disorders which include: 

  • eating softer foods
  • avoiding chewing gum and biting your nails
  • modifying the pain with heat packs
  • practicing relaxation techniques to control jaw tension, such as meditation or biofeedback.
  • exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles
  • medications prescribed by your dentist; for example, muscle relaxants, analgesics, anti-anxiety drugs or anti-inflammatory medications
  • a night guard or bite plate to decrease clenching or grinding of teeth.

In some cases, your dentist may recommend fixing an uneven bite by adjusting or reshaping some teeth. Orthodontic treatment may also be recommended. Your dentist can suggest the most appropriate therapy based on the suspected cause.

No matter what the underlying cause may be, most people with TMD resolve the disorder with treatment in just a few months. On a daily basis, someone with this disorder must follow the prescribed treatment plan, which can vary from person to person and depend on the underlying cause. When stress is the underlying cause, a temporomandibular disorder is usually resolved within two to three months after diagnosis and following a treatment plan. The treatment plan may involve using medicine to relieve pain, learning stress relief techniques, and practicing behavior modification (such as learning not to clench the jaw).

If a jaw disorder is the underlying cause -- such as a jaw dislocation or when the disk in the joint gets out of position -- a splint of some fashion may need to be worn for several months to get the jaw back into correction position.

If arthritis is the cause, the person needs to rest the jaw and pain usually goes away after six months. If rheumatoid arthritis is the cause, the person needs to exercise the joint to prevent calcification and to keep the jaw as mobile as possible.

If hypermobility (loose jaw ligaments that often lead to dislocation) is the underlying cause, jaw dislocation is often the result. Sometimes a person needs help from a healthcare professional to snap the jaw back into place. If dislocation happens frequently, the person may be taught how to relax the jaw and snap it back into place on their own.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.