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TMJ Dysfunction Disorder Treatment Overview

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Care Plan


First steps to consider

  • Mild symptoms can often be treated at home.
  • Home treatments include OTC pain relievers, applying ice and heat, and wearing mouthguards at night.
See home treatments

When you may need a provider

  • You have moderate to severe symptoms, ongoing pain or tenderness in the jaw, or you can't open or close your jaw completely.
  • You have mild symptoms that haven’t improved with OTC treatments.
See care providers

Emergency Care

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Call 911 or go to the ER if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • If your jaw becomes locked in an open or closed position, go to the ER to have it placed back in its normal position.

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All treatments for TMJ dysfunction disorder
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Read more about TMJ dysfunction disorder care options

When to see a healthcare provider

You should consider seeing a healthcare provider if you have moderate to severe TMJ symptoms or you have mild symptoms that haven’t improved after 3–4 weeks of home treatment. Also see your doctor if you have ongoing pain or tenderness in the jaw or if you can't open or close your jaw completely.

You may need to take prescription medication or do physical therapy. Your doctor may also recommend alternative treatments like acupuncture or biofeedback. In rare cases, when medications are not working, you may be referred to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, who may do injections of the jaw or surgery if necessary.

Getting diagnosed for TMJ

There are several types of tests doctors use to diagnose TMJ. These include:

  • X-rays to check your teeth and jaw.
  • A CT scan, which shows more details of the bones in the joint.
  • An MRI to examine the disk in the joint or surrounding soft tissue.
  • An arthroscopy may be necessary in some cases. The doctor inserts a small, thin tube with a tiny camera into the joint to study the area.

What to expect from your doctor visit

If at-home treatments aren’t working, your doctor may prescribe medication to relieve your symptoms. They may also recommend other types of therapies, such as acupuncture or biofeedback.

  • Prescription-strength anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help pain and inflammation when OTC versions haven't helped.
  • Muscle relaxants can help reduce tension and muscle spasms in your jaw.
  • Steroid medications can reduce inflammation.
  • Certain antidepressants, like tricyclic antidepressants, help reduce nerve pain.
  • Biofeedback measures body functions (heart rate, pulse, muscle tension, etc.) and helps you learn how to control them by relaxing or thinking of something calming.
  • Acupuncture uses thin needles to stimulate specific points on the body to reduce muscle tension and pain.
  • Meditation trains you to focus your attention and awareness in order to increase calmness and physical relaxation.

In rare cases, when medications do not work, you may be referred to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, who may do injections of the jaw or surgery if necessary.

Prescription TMJ medications

  • NSAIDS: diclofenac (Voltaren), celecoxib (Celebrex)
  • Muscle relaxants: cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), metaxalone (Skelaxin)
  • Steroid injections
  • Antidepressants: amitriptyline (Elavil), doxepin (Silenor)

What kind of doctor treats TMJ?

  • A primary care provider can treat mild to moderate symptoms.
  • A dentist who treats orofacial pain can do additional testing and treat TMJ.
  • A physical therapist can teach you jaw exercises to strengthen certain muscles and improve your TMJ range of motion.
  • If you have a complex case of TMJ, you may need to see other specialists. These may include a pain specialist, rheumatologist, or a neurologist. Rheumatologists have special training in conditions that affect the joints, muscles, and bones, while neurologists treat diseases of the nerves, spinal cord, and brain.
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