Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is estimated to affect up to 10 million Americans. The temporomandibular joint (also called TMJ) is a hinge that connects the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull. This joint is found in the front of each ear and assists with talking, chewing, and yawning.
Symptoms of TMJ disorder include an audible cracking of the jaw when opening the mouth, being unable to open the mouth wide, a locking feeling that causes the jaw to remain open or stay firmly closed, and pain or swelling on the sides of the face. Migraine headaches can also be a symptom of TMJ disorder.
TMJ disorders are typically caused by stress, grinding of the teeth (usually unintentional and unknown because it occurs during sleep), or an injury or trauma to that area of the face such as being hit by a baseball.
Targeted facial exercises, dietary changes (eating more soft foods), and use of essential oils can ease TMJ symptoms.
Below are essential oils that can alleviate TMJ disorder and their modes of action.
Most Effective Essential Oils for TMJ
(1) Peppermint essential oil is the most popular natural remedy. It is a cooling oil that has an analgesic effect on the facial muscles, so it works by relaxing them and easing the pain. Peppermint essential oil is very potent so it should be combined with a carrier oil (coconut oil) and applied topically on a small test area to ensure there is no adverse skin reaction before use.
(2) Lavender oil is a multi-purpose oil. It is calming so it is known to relax muscles and is known to assist with insomnia. In addition, it is an anti-inflammatory oil. Lavender oil can be applied topically without being diluted.
(3) Eucalyptus oil can be helpful because TMJ patients tend to suffer more headache pain if they have sinus congestion. Eucalyptus oil eases sinus congestion. It should be diluted before application because it is potent.
(4) Ginger oil can also reduce inflammation of the temporomandibular joint. Like peppermint and eucalyptus oil, it must be diluted before application.
(5) Frankincense is one of the oldest known oils and was initially used for religious purposes. However, its pain-relieving properties work similarly to aspirin. Dilution is required before safe use.
(6) Tea tree oil has many medicinal uses including the relief of TMJ pain. It relieves pain and tension and can be applied topically and without dilution to the affected areas.
(7) Clary sage oil is lesser known but also effective. It relieves muscle spasm and pain but must be diluted with a carrier oil for safe application.
In addition to being applied topically, the essential oils for TMJ can be gently massaged into the affected area with the fingertips or knuckles.