Print this topic

HealthInfo Canterbury

Self-care for Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)

In many cases you can manage Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) yourself or with advice from your doctor or a dentist after an assessment.

Self-care for TMD

Follow these steps to look after your jaw. They can be very effective in helping you to avoid pain and reduce damage.

Things to do

Things to avoid

Rules of five – an exercise for your jaw

Try the following exercise at least twice a day.

If any of these steps cause more pain, then stop doing them and contact your specialist.

  1. Heat a wheat bag in the microwave until it is comfortably warm (or you can use a padded-up small towel rung out in warm water).
  2. Wrap the wheat bag/towel in front of one ear, under the chin, and up in front of the other ear. Keep on for five minutes.
  3. Remove the wheat bag/towel. Open your mouth as far as is comfortable, and keep your mouth open in that position for five seconds.
  4. Close your mouth. Relax your jaw for five seconds.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 (opening and holding, then relaxing) five times.
  6. Place a normal ballpoint pen between your front teeth. Rapidly move your lower jaw from side to side as far as you can.

Repeat the exercise five times.

Getting help for TMD


Some people with TMD may be helped by using a splint in their mouth called occlusional splint therapy. This needs to be fitted by a dentist. Your doctor may be able to refer you to the hospital dental service if you are eligible, or you can see a private dentist.

Physiotherapist or trained massage therapist

May be able to give you some treatment and exercises that will help you to relax the facial muscles and prevent jaw clenching that can make the problem worse.


Some people benefit from medications that are used to help persistent pain.


Cognitive behavioural therapy can help this condition.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeon

Most people with jaw pain don't need surgery. Surgery for jaw pain isn't currently available in the public system, however your GP or dentist may recommend that you see a surgeon privately if this is an option for you.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created October 2018.

Page reference: 501154

Review key: HICPA-75368