The goal of treatment for
temporomandibular (TM) disorders is to relieve pain in
the jaw and restore normal jaw movement and function. Several treatment
approaches are effective. Often, simple home treatment measures can
successfully relieve jaw pain without medical or dental treatment. For chronic,
muscle-related TM disorders, standard medical care can include muscle
biofeedback, stress management, or
National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends conservative,
noninvasive treatment measures for TM disorders. For
first-time treatment of TM disorder symptoms, the NIH recommends avoiding
invasive or irreversible procedures, such as surgery or dental/orthodontic
The most common dental
treatment for TM disorders is using splints or bite plates for a short period of
time. Splints-called occlusal splints-are usually clear, plastic appliances
that fit between the upper and lower teeth. They help reduce grinding and
clenching (bruxism) and, in turn, can relieve
muscle tension and pain. This may allow a displaced disc to return to its
normal position. Splints are used over short periods of time so that they do
not cause permanent changes in the teeth or jaw.
dental work (such as crowns, bridges, or shaving down the teeth) and
orthodontic treatments involving permanent changes to
the jaw. At best, these measures may not work any better than conservative
treatments. At worst, they can cause irreversible damage. If your doctor recommends surgery or other treatment that involves permanent
changes, be sure to get a second opinion before you start treatment.
- TM disorder: Should I have surgery for jaw pain?
See the Home Treatment, Other Treatment, and Surgery
sections of this topic for specific treatment options.
What To Think About
Often, structural problems in
the jaw, such as
disc displacement, can be improved with conservative (nonsurgical) treatment,
especially when they are treated early.
In the past, teeth not
fitting together properly (malocclusion) was considered to be a
cause of TM disorders, and braces (orthodontics) were used to treat them.
Current research suggests that orthodontic treatment and
malocclusion do not trigger TM disorders or make them
Most health and dental insurance plans do not cover TM disorders. Check
with your insurance provider to find out whether you are covered before
incurring medical or dental expenses related to diagnosis or treatment.