Do you suffer from problems with your jaws? Do you experience excruciating or even a dull pain around your jaws, shoulders, neck, or face that is unexplainable? You might be suffering from a temporomandibular disorder or TMD. Here is a look at what temporomandibular disorders are and what you can do to ease the pain.

What is a temporomandibular disorder (TMD)?

Before delving into TMDs, it’s necessary to understand how the jaw sits within the skull. The lower jawbone (mandible) is connected to the skull at the temporomandibular joint TMJ. The TMJ allows you to open and close your lower jaw when you talk, yawn, chew, swallow, and for several other movements – making TMJs the most used joints in the human body.


Temporomandibular disorders are disorders that can affect the jaw, the jaw joint, and muscles in the head, face, neck, and shoulders.

What causes temporomandibular disorders?

Temporomandibular disorders can be caused by a wide variety of reasons, including:

  • Arthritis of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Congenital jaw problems – for example, a misshaped joint.
  • Poor posture that leads to strained neck and face muscles.
  • Lack of sleep, a poor diet, or acute stress.
  • A shifting of the articular disc cushioning the joint.
  • Clenching or grinding your teeth (bruxism) can damage the tissue around the joint or the joint itself.

Symptoms associated with temporomandibular disorders

Pain is the most noted symptom of a clinical presentation of TMD. The pain can affect areas like the eyes, throat, and ears and produce neck or facial pain and headaches. Here are some common symptoms of TMD:

  • Jaw pain or tenderness in the jaw joint, neck, or upper shoulder pain.
  • Headaches or dizziness.
  • Eachches, pain around the ears, or hearing problems.
  • Difficulty opening your mouth wide.
  • Difficulty chewing or pain when chewing.
  • Jaws get locked in an open or closed-mouth position.
  • Swelling on the affected side of the face.

When to see a specialist who treatsTMJ

Most people who suffer from temporomandibular disorders experience mild symptoms that come and go. Others develop chronic, long-lasting symptoms that affect their quality of life and sense of well-being.

If your symptoms are unbearable or chronic, consider getting them checked up. Although there are no standard tests to diagnose TMDs, your doctor could refer you to a TMD dentistry specialist to conduct various imaging tests and help diagnose your condition.

TMJ specialists near me

The best person to consult is your general physician or dentist. After a thorough examination, they will be able to recommend the best TMJ specialist in your area.

How to ease TMD pain at home

Here are some things you could try for TMD pain relief:

  • Eat soft foods like mashed potato, soft-boiled vegetables, scrambled eggs, fish, and yogurt.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Reduce jaw movements. Avoid hard foods, chewing gum, and tough foods like meat. Avoid opening your mouth too wide when you yawn. Cut foods into bite-size bits, so you don’t have to open your mouth very wide.
  • Use ice or heat (cold packs or moist heat) to reduce any swelling. Apply to the painful side of the face for about 10 minutes at a time.
  • Try gentle jaw-stretching exercises and relaxation techniques to ease any jaw pain or stiffness. Check with your physiotherapist or your dentist about the best and safest practices.
  • Practice good posture.
  • Avoid resting your phone between your shoulder and ear.
  • Keep your teeth slightly apart to reduce pain.

If none of the above solutions give you relief, you might need to see a doctor who might recommend one or more of the following:

  • Pain medications (for example, ibuprofen) to reduce jaw pain.
  • Medications to reduce the tension in the jaw muscles.
  • Medications to reduce swelling around the jaw.
  • Bite guards to prevent teeth grinding or bruxism.
  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to reduce stress.
  • Botox injections to relax, facial nerves and muscles.
  • Braces, bridges, or crowns to balance the biting surfaces.

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Other treatments for TMD pain relief

When all else fails, your doctor might recommend the following treatments for TMD pain relief.

  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy uses mild electrical impulses to relax facial muscles and provide pain relief.
  • Trigger-point injections or anesthesia injections to provide TMD pain relief. The medicine is injected into the tender facial muscles.
  • Radio wave therapy stimulates the jaw joints. That, in turn, increases blood flow and reduces any pain in the area.
  • When you cannot open your mouth wide or have severe pain in the neck, low-level laser therapy can help decrease inflammation and pain associated with TMD.
  • Depending on the cause of the TMD, your doctor might recommend surgery like arthrocentesis, arthroscopy, or open-joint surgery.


Temporomandibular disorders can be painful and debilitating. Thankfully, the condition is treatable. In most cases, you can manage TMD with over-the-counter pain meds and a few lifestyle changes – like correcting your posture, eating soft foods, and gentle jaw exercises. If the condition persists, consider visiting your GP or a TMJ specialist (a web search for “TMJ specialists near me” will yield good results).

Dr. Katherine Phillips

“Dr. Katherine Phillips received her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and her dental degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry. She currently serves as the Secretary/Treasurer on the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABDSM) Board of Directors and treats TMD and sleep disordered breathing at Restore TMJ & Sleep Therapy in the Houston, TX area.”


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