The goal of treatment for temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) is to relieve pain in the jaw and restore normal jaw movement and function. Several treatment approaches are effective. The first treatments that are tried for TMDs are called conservative, because they are simple and temporary. They are not invasive or permanent. They can be stopped or reversed. They include over-the-counter pain medicine and self-care that you can do at home.
Often, simple home treatment measures can successfully relieve jaw pain. Less than 1 out of 10 adults have jaw problems or pain that is so severe that they need medical or dental treatment.1
For chronic, muscle-related TMDs, standard medical care can include muscle relaxation measures, biofeedback, stress management, or cognitive-behavioral therapy.
For chronic pain caused by a TMD, it is important to seek treatment for pain and for related depression and anxiety.
Dental splints are the most common dental treatment for TMDs. These splints or bite plates are typically used for a short period of time. They can help relieve muscle tension and pain.
Most people do not need permanent dental work or surgery. Permanent dental work might include orthodontic treatments involving permanent changes to the jaw. At best, permanent treatments or surgery may not work any better than physical therapy and temporary 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.
- Temporomandibular Disorder: Should I Have Surgery for Jaw Pain?
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.
Health and dental insurance plans might not cover diagnosis and treatment. Because some tests and treatments are quite expensive, you may want to check your coverage before incurring expenses.