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Self-care for Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)

Tāu ake whakaora i te matenga hononga kauae

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

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's comfortably warm (or you can use a padded-up small towel rung out in warm water).
  2. Wrap the wheat bag or towel in front of one ear, under the chin, and up in front of the other ear. Keep it on for five minutes.
  3. Remove the wheat bag or 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 occlusal 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're eligible or you can see a private dentist.

Physiotherapist or trained massage therapist

A physiotherapist or trained massage therapist may be able to give you some treatment and exercises that will help you relax your facial muscles and prevent the jaw clenching that can make the problem worse.


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


Cognitive behavioural therapy can help this condition.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeon

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

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2022.

Page reference: 501154

Review key: HIDRY-74891