Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

In some cases, the symptoms of TMJ disorders may go away without treatment. If your symptoms persist, your doctor may recommend a variety of treatment options.

Medications

In conjunction with other nonsurgical treatments, medications that may help relieve the pain associated with TMJ disorders may include:

  • Pain relievers. If over-the-counter pain medications aren't enough to relieve TMJ pain, your doctor or dentist may prescribe stronger pain relievers.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants. These medications, such as amitriptyline, used to be used mostly for depression, but now are also used for pain relief.
  • Muscle relaxants. These types of drugs are sometimes used for a few days or weeks to help relieve pain caused by TMJ disorders.
  • Sedatives. If nighttime teeth clenching is aggravating your pain, your doctor might prescribe a sedative such as clonazepam (Klonopin).

Therapies

Nonpharmaceutical treatments for TMJ disorder include:

  • Bite guards (oral splints). Often, people with jaw pain will benefit from wearing a soft or firm device inserted over their teeth, but the reasons why these devices are beneficial are not well understood.
  • Physical therapy. Treatments might include ultrasound, moist heat and ice — along with exercises to stretch and strengthen jaw muscles.
  • Counseling. Education and counseling can help you understand the factors and behaviors that may aggravate your pain, so you can avoid them. Examples include teeth clenching or grinding, leaning on your chin, or biting fingernails.

Surgical or other procedures

When other methods don't help, your doctor might suggest procedures such as:

  • Arthrocentesis. This procedure involves the insertion of needles into the joint so that fluid can be irrigated through the joint to remove debris and inflammatory byproducts.
  • Injections. In some people, corticosteroid injections into the joint may be helpful. Infrequently, injecting botulinum toxin (Botox, others) into the jaw muscles used for chewing may relieve pain associated with TMJ disorders.
  • Surgery. If your jaw pain does not resolve with more-conservative treatments and if it appears to be caused by a structural problem within the joint, your doctor or dentist may suggest surgery to repair or replace the joint. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research considers TMJ surgery to be controversial and recommends that it be avoided whenever possible.
Dec. 13, 2012

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