Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

In diagnosing TMD your doctor will do a physical examination.

In diagnosing TMD your doctor will do a physical examination.
beginning of content

Temporomandibular joint disorder

2-minute read

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects your jaw to your skull. There is one on each side of your face, in front of each ear. These joints allow the movements needed for speaking, eating and facial expression.

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) can cause pain, abnormal jaw movements and joint noises. They are quite common.

TMD symptoms

If you have TMD, you may have:

  • discomfort or pain in the jaw, especially when eating
  • an aching pain in front of your ear, which may spread to your face
  • ‘locking’ of the jaw, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
  • a clicking or grating noise when you open your mouth or chew
  • an uncomfortable or uneven bite

What causes TMD?

TMD can be caused by a number of different things, including:

Sometimes, people have TMD without any obvious cause.

When to seek treatment?

If you think you might have TMD and it’s bothering you, see your doctor or dentist. They will do a physical examination. You might be asked to have an X-rayCT or MRI scan.

TMD treatment

There is plenty you can do to relieve the symptoms of TMD:

  • eating soft food
  • avoiding chewing gum
  • cutting all food into small pieces
  • avoiding clenching your jaw
  • avoiding opening your mouth wide
  • wearing a mouthguard while you sleep to prevent jaw clenching or teeth grinding

You can also try relaxation techniques to relieve stress. Gentle jaw-strengthening exercises might also help.

It is not known which medications are really effective for TMD. However, medications that may be tried include painkillers, medications that treat inflammation, and muscle relaxants. In most cases, TMD improves over time. Very few people need surgery.

Last reviewed: August 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Temporomandibular joint disorders - myDr.com.au

Find out more about temporomandibular disorders, or TMJ disorders, which cause dull, aching pain in the jaw.

Read more on myDr website

Trigger point injection for pain relief information | myVMC

Trigger point injection of a local anaesthetic (painkiller) provides pain relief in myofascial pain syndrome or trigger point pain.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Teeth grinding - Better Health Channel

Teeth grinding (bruxism) is involuntary clenching or grinding of the teeth, usually during sleep.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback