Heat improves blood circulation to the treated area. Applying heat via warm soaks or heating pads can be very soothing and may relax muscle spasm. Most doctors recommend that you apply the heat for about 10 minutes at a time, 3-4 times a day.
Cold can help decrease inflammation in an affected joint, relieve pain, and improve stiffness and movement. Apply an ice pack for 20-30 minutes at a time, several times each day.
Corticosteroid injections are rarely used for TMD, although they may be recommended for more severe cases, predominantly when the disorder is caused by inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid or osteoarthritis. The corticosteroid medication can help decrease inflammation and pain in the joint.
In this therapy, the affected joint is injected with a solution containing a corticosteroid, such as:
There is some limited evidence that low-level laser therapy can improve symptoms, though few scientific studies provide strong guidance for choosing treatments.
You doctor may order you a splint or bite plate that interferes with jaw clenching and teeth grinding. You might be advised to wear it only at night, or you might wear it at times during the day when you are more likely to grind your teeth or clench your jaw. These appliances should not alter your natural bite.
In the more common situation in which pain is due to muscle tension rather than TMD arthritis, injection of botox into facial muscles can give relief of pain when other treatments have failed. It can weaken the muscles that cause jaw clenching.
Treatments may need to be repeated. The safety and efficacy of such repeated treatments have not yet been established.
Exercises may help to strengthen your jaw muscles.
Gentle jaw stretching and relaxing exercises may help increase jaw movement.
Contact your doctor if:
Borodic GE, Acquadro MA. The use of botulinum toxin for the treatment of chronic facial pain. J Pain. 2002;3(1):21-27.
Cetiner S, Kahraman SA, Yücetaş S. Evaluation of low-level laser therapy in the treatment of temporomandibular disorders. Photomed Laser Surg. 2006;24(5):637-641.
Medlicott MS, Harris SR. A systematic review of the effectiveness of exercise, manual therapy, electrotherapy, relaxation training, and biofeedback in the management of temporomandibular disorder. Phys Ther. 2006;86(7):955-973.
Temporomandibular disorders. American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aaoms.org/images/uploads/pdfs/tmj_disorders.pdf. Published 2013. Accessed February 22, 2017.
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114703/Temporomandibular-joint-TMJ-dysfunction. Updated May 11, 2015. Accessed February 22, 2017.
TMJ. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/content/tmj. Updated December 2010. Accessed February 22, 2017.
TMJ. Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/t/tmj. Accessed February 22, 2017.
TMJ (temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders). National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research website. Available at: https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/Topics/TMJ/TMJDisorders.htm. Updated April 2015. Accessed February 22, 2017.
von Lindern JJ, Niederhagen B, Bergé S, Appel T. Type A botulinum toxin in the treatment of chronic facial pain associated with masticatory hyperactivity. J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2003;61(7):774-778.
Last reviewed February 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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