Temporomandibular Disorders – Information and Advice

What are temporomandibular disorders?

  • Temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) are a group of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint (jaw joint) and the muscles that control jaw movement.
  • About 1 in 4 people are affected and these conditions appear to be more common in women than men
  • For the vast majority of people, pain in the area of the jaw joint or muscles does not signal a serious problem
  • Generally, discomfort from these conditions is occasional and temporary, often occurring in cycles. The pain eventually goes away with little or no treatment. About 1 in 20 people, however, develop significant long-term symptoms.
The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) and Masseter Muscle
The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) and Masseter Muscle

How can I reduce stress/strain on my jaw joint and jaw muscles?

Avoid oral habits

Emotions can be translated into increased muscle activity, tension and pain
Oral habits are well-established patterns of inappropriate muscle activity. They increase strain on the temporomandibular joints and muscles and may contribute to your symptoms and may act as a barrier to your recovery.

Examples of such oral habits include:

  • Tooth contact, clenching or grinding
  • Nail biting
  • Chewing chewing-gum
  • Pen chewing
  • Lip sucking
  • Habitual protrusion (movement of your lower jaw forwards)

Monitor your oral habits and any related pain, and especially be aware of the circumstances in which these habits occur. Greater awareness of such habits and the circumstances in which they occur will help you to avoid this inappropriate muscular activity. This will help to reduce the strain on the temporomandibular joints and muscles and improve your symptoms

Regularly check your ‘relaxed’ jaw rest position

Relaxed jaw rest position

☑ Teeth not in contact

☑ Minimal amount of muscle activity

  • Teeth apart: Say ‘Emma’ – so your jaw and mouth drop open slightly
  • Tongue on the roof of your mouth: Just behind your upper front teeth in the ‘clucking’ position – make a cluck noise with your tongue to find this position
  • Regularly check your jaw ‘rest position’ throughout the day, especially after eating, while working on your computer, driving etc.

Remember – Keep your tongue up, teeth apart!

Avoid a ‘forward’ head posture

Regularly check and correct your sitting position (see image above) to prevent a forward head posture. A prolonged forward head posture will increase stress on your joints and muscles

  • Sit correctly when working at a computer, driving, watching TV, reading, eating, knitting etc.
  • Use chairs with lumbar support (or use a lumbar roll)
  • Always push your bottom to the very back of the chair
  • When sitting at a desk or table pull your chair in, so your tummy makes contact with the desk or table
  • Position your keyboard and mouse within easy reach
  • Position your monitor at eye level
  • Use a document stand when inputting information to the computer
  • Don’t sit for long periods without a break – stand & stretch every 15 minutes
Examples of good and bad head posture

Other ways you can reduce stress/strain on your jaw

  • Eat a soft diet, avoid hard crunchy foods, and cut food into small pieces
  • Chew Chew on both sides or alternate sides
  • Avoid caffeine. Caffeine can cause increased muscle activity
  • Avoid repeated or prolonged wide mouth opening
  • Keep the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth when yawning to prevent excessive mouth opening
  • Do not rest your chin in your hands
  • Avoid sleeping on your front
  • If your dentist has provided you with a bite appliance, use it as directed
  • Use simple analgesics or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication as directed by your GP or Chemist
  • Regular daily exercise such as walking is beneficial for your general health.

Further information about TMDs

How can physiotherapy help with TMD

Why should patients with TMDs see a physio

Need to find a TMD specialist?

Find ACPTMD members by region

  • Disclaimer

    The information on this website is intended to provide basic self-help advice, if you need any more help with your symptoms  then please refer to our find our Specialist Physiotherapy section, your Doctor or dentist to provide an assessment and individual treatment and advice as required .