Types of Treatments for TMJ Disorder

Someone experiencing jaw pain and rubbing jaw muscles

What Types of Treatments Are Available for TMJ Dysfunction?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a complex hinge joint that connects the jawbone to the skull. TMJ disorders can cause pain and discomfort in the jaw joint and muscles that control jaw movement, making eating, speaking, and sleeping difficult. While some cases of TMJ disorder may resolve independently with rest and self-care measures like ice packs or over-the-counter pain relievers, persistent symptoms may require more advanced treatment options. These can include oral splints or mouth guards, physical therapy exercises to strengthen the muscles around the jaw joint, stress management techniques to alleviate tension in the jaw muscles, lifestyle modifications like avoiding hard or chewy foods, and sometimes, surgical intervention.

Non-Drug Therapies

Another option is non-drug therapies. These are often the first course of action in combatting TMJ dysfunction in the hopes they can resolve the issue drug-free.

Non-Drug therapies for TMJ disorders include:

Oral splints or mouth guards:

Oral splints and mouth guards treat TMJ disorders by reducing pressure on the jaw joint. These devices help reposition the jaw to reduce stress on the joint and alleviate pain, stiffness, and other symptoms associated with TMJ disorders. They may also help to protect teeth from damage caused by bruxism (teeth grinding), which can worsen TMJ pain over time. Oral splints and mouth guards are typically custom-made for each patient and may need to be adjusted over time to ensure proper fit and effectiveness. While they are generally considered safe, some patients may experience side effects such as increased salivation or difficulty speaking while wearing these devices.

Laser Therapy:

If you suffer from TMJ, you know how debilitating the pain and discomfort can be. Fortunately, laser therapy may offer relief. Laser therapy for TMJ involves using low-level lasers to stimulate healing in the affected area. This process, called photobiomodulation, helps increase the production of ATP, which triggers improvements in cellular metabolism, DNA production, cellular replication, and replacement, regeneration, and repair of damaged cells. Some of the main benefits of laser therapy are that it is non-invasive and does not require medication. Instead, the low-level lasers are applied directly to the site of the temporomandibular joint disorder to increase blood flow and reduce cellular waste buildup. This treatment promotes the formation of new capillaries and other blood vessels necessary for healing and restoring proper function. Laser therapy may be worth considering if you’re looking for a safe and effective way to manage symptoms of TMJ disorders without drugs or surgery.

Physical therapy:

Physical therapy is another option for treating TMJ pain and dysfunction. A physical therapist can work with you to develop a personalized exercise program that focuses on strengthening the muscles around the jaw joint, improving the range of motion, and reducing tension in the neck and shoulders. In addition to exercises, physical therapy may also include manual therapy techniques such as massage or stretching to release tight muscles and improve joint mobility. Physical therapy can benefit patients who have developed TMJ pain due to poor posture or muscle imbalances in the neck and shoulder region. With regular practice, these exercises can help alleviate pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders while improving overall jaw function over time.

Stress Management Techniques

Stress is a common trigger for TMJ pain and discomfort, so managing stress can effectively alleviate symptoms. One such technique is meditation, which involves focusing the mind on a specific object or thought to achieve a state of mental clarity and relaxation. Meditation reduces levels of stress hormones like cortisol in the body, which can help to alleviate tension in the jaw muscles and reduce overall pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders. Deep breathing exercises are another effective stress management technique that can alleviate TMJ symptoms. These exercises involve taking slow, deep breaths through the nose and exhaling slowly through the mouth, which can help reduce muscle tension throughout the body and promote calm and relaxation. By incorporating these stress management techniques into your daily routine, you may be able to manage your TMJ symptoms more effectively over time. It’s important to note that no single treatment works best for everyone with TMJ disorder. Your doctor or dentist will work with you to determine which combination of treatments best suits your unique case. Surgery may sometimes be necessary if other treatments have been unsuccessful.


One common approach to treating TMJ disorders is medication. Pain relievers and anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be helpful for mild cases. However, if these over-the-counter medications aren’t enough to relieve your pain, your doctor or dentist may prescribe more potent pain relievers for a limited time. This includes low-dose antidepressants and muscle relaxers.

Medications for TMJ include:

Pain relievers and anti-inflammatories:

Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs can help alleviate the pain associated with TMJ disorders. These medications work by reducing inflammation in the jaw joint, which can help relieve pain and discomfort. Over-the-counter pain medications lik ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be helpful for mild cases, but if these don’t provide enough relief, prescription strength medication may be necessary. While medication alone may not completely resolve TMJ disorder symptoms, it can be a practical part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes other physical or counseling-based therapies. It’s imperative to consult with your doctor or dentist to determine the most appropriate treatment for your individual needs.

Tricyclic antidepressants:

Tricyclic antidepressants are a class of medication used to help alleviate the pain associated with TMJ disorders. While they are primarily used to treat depression in low doses, they effectively treat pain, bruxism control (teeth grinding), and sleeplessness associated with TMJ disorders. These medications work by altering the levels of certain chemicals in the brain that affect pain perception. Your doctor or dentist may prescribe tricyclic antidepressants if other treatments like pain relievers or oral splints have not provided enough relief As with any medication, discussing potential side effects and risks with your healthcare provider before starting treatment is essential.

Muscle relaxants:

Muscle relaxers are another type of medication that can help treat TMJ pain. These medications reduce muscle spasms and tension in the jaw, which can contribute to pain and discomfort. Your doctor or dentist may prescribe muscle relaxers if other treatments have not provided enough relief. They are typically used for short-term relief of acute TMJ symptoms, as they can cause drowsiness and other side effects. Muscle relaxers may be combined with other therapies, such as physical therapy or counseling-based treatments, to relieve TMJ disorder symptoms completely. As always, discussing potential risks and side effects with your healthcare provider before starting any new medication or treatment plan is paramount. .

Final Thoughts on Treating TMJ Disorders

In some cases, the symptoms of TMJ disorders may go away without treatment, but it’s essential to seek medical attention if they persist. There are many effective treatments available that can help alleviate your pain and improve your quality of life. Consult your doctor or dentist today to determine what treatment options suit you!

Get TMJ Dysfunction Treatment in Point Pleasant, NJ

While Dr. Zicchino provides general dentistry and cosmetic dentistry to the Point Pleasant area, he specializes in TMJ therapy and dental implants. If you think you may be suffering from TMJ disorder, call us today or schedule an appointment online.

About the Author

Dr. Joseph Zicchino provides a wide array of cosmetic dentistry services, including Invisalign® Clear Aligners, at his practice in Point Pleasant, NJ. He earned his dental degree from NYU Dental School and established Coastal Dental Group in 2004. For more information call (732) 714-1030 or to schedule an appointment!