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Lifestyle Changes to Manage Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)

Most lifestyle changes that might be helpful for TMD involve ways to break habits that might be contributing to your pain, such as grinding your teeth, clenching your jaw, or habitually chewing gum.

  • Learn to manage stress
  • Wear night guards
  • Stop chewing gum
  • Avoid opening your mouth very wide
  • Eat softer foods

Nearly everyone has some habit that they use to release nervous energy when they feel stressed. In some people, tooth grinding or jaw clenching, also known as bruxism, may contribute to pain in the temporomandibular joint. Finding other ways to manage stress may help decrease your pain.

A night guard is a customized plastic device, usually made by a dentist, which fits over your teeth. The device is worn at night to reduce the damage to teeth and jaw joints caused by clenching and grinding.

Habitual gum chewers sometimes have jaw pain because of overuse. For some people, chewing gum is a nervous habit. If you are a regular gum chewer, consider breaking the habit to see if this improves your symptoms of TMD.

Be aware of how wide you open your mouth. This may give your jaw a chance to rest and heal.

Your doctor might recommend that you eat soft foods to rest your jaw.

Revision Information

  • Cummings CW. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery . 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby; 2005.

  • Dambro MR. Griffith’s 5-Minute Clinical Consult . Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2006.

  • Okeson, Jeffrey. Clinical Management of Temporomandibular Disorders and Occlusion . 6th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby 2007.

  • Siccoli MM. Facial pain: a clinical differential diagnosis. Lancet Neurology . 2006;5:257-267.

  • TMD/TMJ (temporomandibular disorders). American Dental Association website. Available at: http://www.ada.org . Accessed September 17, 2008.

  • TMJ. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/tmj.cfm . Accessed September 17, 2008.

  • TMJ (temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders). National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research website. Available at: http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/TMJ . Updated August 2008. Accessed September 17, 2008.