Essential Oils For Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Pain

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

One of the biggest and strongest bones on the face region is the mandible. It basically offers support of the lower teeth.  Mandible’s joints move by support of the hard tissue. Trauma or bad bites, causes misalignment of the joints, known as temporomandibular joint disorder. TMJ is the connection of the teeth, jaw and the mouth muscles that work together to ensure opening and closing of the mouth. This disorder is accompanied by pain and tension in entire region of the face, head and neck.  TMJ’s pain affects all the surrounding area of the face especially the ear all the way down to the neck. There are two temporomandibular joints which could sometimes differ in size and shape as well as their function. 

If one joint is dysfunctional the symptoms can manifest in the other too.  Pain can move from one joint to the other due to its complexity.

Generally the disorder can be caused by trauma from blow on the jaw, excessive chewing, bruxism, mental trauma, osteoarthritis, birth defect, calcium and magnesium nutritional deficiencies and spine problems. Major causes of TMJ are trauma which could be as a result of car accident, skeletal discrepancy which in most cases is never rectified at an early stage or age, misalignment of the teeth which causes tension of the jaw muscle and bones and sometimes grinding of the teeth (bruxism).  Poor posture of the spine muscles and neck may cause strains on jaw muscle.  Women aged between 18 to 45 years are most vulnerable to the TMJ risk.  Basically, people with high levels of stress and are sensitive to pain are at risk of TMJ disorder.

Headache is one of the common symptoms of TMJ, pain experience all round the head. Talking or chewing increases the pain.  Contraction of the mandible muscles causes a strain on the entire head, as a result the brain responds by sending more blood in this region causing a lot of pressure which brings about headache. Ear pains are experienced with a sound of cracking in the inner ear.

The disorder is diagnosed by a doctor by looking at the history of the patient and physical examination.  A thorough examination on the muscles, joints, cranial, neurological and dental has to be done especially when the cause of TMJ is unknown.  An ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialist will be the best to give a report on diagnosis.  In rare cases an MRI may be done to check if there are hidden injuries or damages.  If the TMJ disorder is left untreated it evolves to consistent migraines that impair an individual’s normal body function.

Children at an early age could also experience TMJ just like adults do.  Bruxism (grinding of the teeth) is most common symptom of TMJ in children.  Stress related issues affect children such as performance in school or change of normal routine which manifests in bruxism.  It is important to treat this condition in children failure to which may result to more complications.

Essential oils are used to treat many ailments and TMJ is one of them. They are handy home remedies due to their relaxation techniques, pain relieving and stress management.   They are natural therefore no side effects experience during the application.  These oils are extracts which have more than 100 chemicals which re useful n therapies.  In treatment of TMJ, the oils reduce anxiety, relieves pain among other symptoms.  They are highly potent so they need to be diluted with gentler oil to act as their base.  The base prevents skin irritation or sensitization.

There are many essential oils that can be used to treat TMJ but it is advisable to get the best quality of oils.  No additives should be put in the oil; natural oils are safe and effective in treatment of TMJ.  They are expensive compared to over the counter drugs.  Essential oils do not have fillers therefore uses many plants to extract just an ounce of the oil.

Essential Oils

Essential Oils for Boils

Lavender Essential Oil

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Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender is commonly used for its various properties including antimicrobial, anti-fungal and antiseptic among others. It has an effect of tranquility and calmness soothing one to fall asleep in addition to its sweet smell. It is effective in treatment of low blood pressure, inflammation and muscles pain relief. The oil helps in relieving headaches which are caused by TMJ. Spike lavender is an effective option for those who require a strong pain killer without sedative effects.  Lavandula latifolia is cheap though it effectively act as antispasmodic, ideal for muscular issues. TMJ causes lack of sleep at night but use of lavender helps curb insomnia. Lavender essential oil is commonly used to boost immunity so that the body is able to fight all sorts of diseases.

Eucalyptus

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Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus essential oil has a natural pain relieving qualities in addition to antibacterial and antiviral properties.  Homemade combination of this treatment has 4 drops of eucalyptus oil mixed with olive oil.  Olive oil is good in moisturizing the skin making it a gentler carrier.

Peppermint Essential Oil

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Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint essential oil has been known for treatment and relieving of pain. It has a cooling and uplifting effect best for application on the joints and muscle pains associated with TMJ.

Grapefruit Essential Oil

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Grapefruit

Like any citrus oil, the grapefruit essential oil is soothing and has a laxative effect. Grapefruit is among the essential oils whose effects are not only mind lifting and relaxing but also relieves tension. The oil cures depression and relieves stress which could be caused by TMJ. Use it when diffused or mix with your bath water for maximum results.  For topical application, mix with coconut oil or any preferred carrier oil and rub on your skin around the neck and jaws.

Clary Sage

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clary sage essential oil

There is a difference between clary sage and sage (Salvia officinalis) therefore do not confuse them since they have different functions.  Clary sage is an essential oil effective in relieving pain such as cramps, muscle pain and spasms. It is very potent and should be used in small amounts.  It can be mixed with chamomile essential oil as a pain reliever and for loosening tension brought by TMJ.  During labour, women are advised to blend lavender essential oil with clary sage essential oil for purposes of easing pain and discomfort. Other than treatment of TMJ it is also known for its spiritual use and is associated with dreams as well as enhancing inner vision.

Marjoram Essential Oil

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Marjoram Essential Oil

Marjoram essential oil is effective in relieving pain especially neuromuscular contractions and stiffness.  Other than treatment of migraine headache and dysmenorrheal, it works well in relieving tension caused by TMJ. Many people use for its effect on heartache, trauma and emotions.

Chamomile Essential Oil

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Chamomile Oil

Chamomile essential oil is extracted from its flowers and has a strong scent.  This is effective oil because of its analgesic properties which help in reduction of muscle, bone and joint pain which are mostly caused by injuries. It is known for easing TMJ syndrome among other ailments such as spinal pain, PMS, dysmenorrheal and headache.   The severe pain around the cranial nerve caused by pressure in the blood vessels is relieved by application of chamomile oil.

Frankincense

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Frankincense (Boswellia carteri)

Frankincense is known to outdo all other essential oils.  In addition to its ancient use as a healing substance its tree has become famous to date.  The oil has analgesic properties helpful in relieving pain caused by tension.  It is traditionally used to ease muscle and joint pain.  Researches done to compare aspirin and frankincense essential oil revealed that the oil worked well in inhibiting pain than aspirin did. It is administered during treatment of TMJ in both initial and late phase pain.

Valor Essential Oil

Carrier Oils

Valor essential oil is applied on the neck and jaw during the treatment of TMJ.  Apply 2-3 drops of this oil on around the jaw bone to ease the tension and pain of TMJ. A blend of the oil with frankincense, blue tansy and spruce gives an effective concoction for treating muscle and bone aches.

Helichrysum Essential Oil

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Helichrysum Essential Oil

This oil has been used in religious rituals as an anointing oil.  It is also used in therapeutic massages.  It is used to detoxify especially for people who have taken a lot of alcohol and nicotine. Depression caused by TMJ syndrome is treated with helichrysum essential oil.

Sandalwood Essential Oil

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Sandalwood (Santalum Album)

Sandalwood essential oil is effective in relieving muscle ache in addition to treating depression. Though sandalwood is not common in some regions in the globe, its essential oil is one of the many pain and tension relievers advocated by practitioners.

Vetiver Essential Oil

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Vetiver Oil

Other than detoxification properties, the oil is used to treat TMJ disorder.  It relieves muscle ache, joint pains and stiffness of the jaw bone. In addition, it relieves tension caused by TMJ and prevents depression.  As a treatment for insomnia, vetiver essential oil ensures that the patient sleeps well and gets enough rest which is crucial during treatment of TMJ.

Citrus Essential Oils

Citrus Essential Oils

Citrus oils such as grapefruit, tangerine, lemon, orange among others are effective tension relievers.  These oils work well when combined with sedative essential oils during treatment of TMJ.  The blend has a natural therapeutic treatment that eases the pain and tension of TMJ.

Rose and Jasmine Essential Oils

Essential Oil Blends

The two are flower essences that work well when combined with sedative essences to treat TMJ.  The blend relieves anxiety as well as muscle and joint pain.  In addition the blend causes a relaxation of both body and mind thus reducing tension and possibility of depression.

Tea Tree Essential Oil

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Tea Tree Oil

The oil has antiherpetic, pain-reliever and anti-inflammatory properties.  TMJ associated pains not only comes from the tension but also from the inflamed parts of the muscles. A few drops of Tea tree essential oil is used to effectively treat TMJ. It is one of the few oils that can be applied directly without blending with carrier oil.

Camphor Essential Oil

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Camphor Essential Oil

Camphor is commonly known to traditionally being used in soothing of an inflamed skin surface.  Other properties are pain relieving, cooling sensation and anti-inflammatory agent.  These properties are ideal in treatment of TMJ.

Copaiba Oil

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Storing the Oil

Copaiba essential oil is extracted from copaiba tree which is commonly found in places such as Brazil.  It is used to treat injuries and irritations. Its natural response ensures soothing of physical discomforts which TMJ is one of them. The oil helps in regulating the immunity of the body, making it possible to fight diseases.  Its main component is known as beta caryphyllene which is 55% of the copaiba essential oil.  Twice daily, when experiencing TMJ, just place 1 drop of the oil under your tongue and the muscle and joint ache will be relieved within seconds.  You will afterwards be able to close and open the mouth without any pain or discomfort.  Many doctors prescribe 2 drops daily for a period of one month and patients have reported positive results.

Clove Bud Essential Oil

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Clove Essential Oil

The oil is commonly used to ease the pain caused by toothache.  In treatment of TMJ, it relieves the muscle and joint pain.  Other than its anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, clove bud essential oil is a strong pain reliever and has a soothing effect useful in treatment of TMJ. It is commonly used to treat infections such as cold and bronchitis.

Fennel Essential Oil

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Fennel

Fennel essential oil’s antispasmodic properties help in improving stiffness which leads to muscular or joint aches in TMJ.  Straining of the mandible joint causes pain and to ease the pain, fennel essential oil comes in handy. For topical use, massage the aching areas with the fennel essential oil which should be diluted with a carrier oil of your choice.  The oil is potent and therefore if used undiluted may cause skin sensitization or irritation. It can also be applied aromatically through steam inhalation.

Jojoba Essential Oil

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Jojoba Essential Oil

The oil is used to relieve and ease tension caused by TMJ and eventually ends up to severe headache.  It helps improve blood circulation which reduces the pressure of blood which causes headache due to strain.

Home Recipe

Cellulite Blend

General Aches Reliever

General Aches

The recipe below is for aromatic use. Mix the following ingredients in a bottle

  • Eucalyptus essential oil- 8 drops
  • Lemon essential oil – 8 drops
  • Water- ¼ cup
  • Castile liquid soap- ¼ cup
  • Jojoba oil- ½ tablespoon
  • Vitamin E oil- 4 drops

Feel free to alternate Eucalyptus essential oil with lavender essential oil or peppermint essential oil with lemon essential oil; they will give you effective and efficient treatment in relieving pain and tension caused by TMJ among other ailments.

Joints and Bones Ache Blend

Joint Pain

  • Helichrysum- 7 drops
  • Peppermint essential oil- 7 drops
  • Chamomile essential oil- 7 drops
  • Coconut or jojoba oil- 15ml or 1 table spoon.

Blend them well and use for your massage twice daily.

Application

Application

Aromatherapy Massage

Aromatherapy Massage

This method is used for muscle and joint pains, headaches and spine aches among others.  It is preferred because it has no side effects.  In treatment of TMJ, it reduces inflammation, reduces depression, anxiety and moderating blood pressure.  Maximum results are achieved with consistent use of the correct dosage.  To release the tension caused by TMJ, specific massage techniques should be applied on the affected area especially around the neck and jaws.  The massage encourages the production of endorphins which helps in blood circulation as a result of stimulation.

Conclusion

Other than conventional treatments such as muscle relaxants, orthotics and anti-inflammatory medicines, essential oils have proved to work well in treatment of TMJ.  Fewer side effects have been reported while using the essential oils compared to conventional treatment.  TMJ pain majorly affects the jaw, face and neck in both acute and chronic cases.  The inflammation that causes pain around the TMJ area is also reported to spread to other areas of the body. Researchers have shown an association between TMJ and migraines both episodic and chronic types.  If essential oils do not work in treating TMJ, botox injections; to relax the muscle or surgery (arthroscopy) are done in severe cases.  Mostly the disorder is managed at home (self care). In rare cases, a complete replacement of the jaw is done if all the above remedies do not work.   TMJ is interconnected with muscles, nerves, cartilages among others to form a system.  When there is a problem in any of the parts, then the whole system is compromised.  Therefore before treatment is initiated, it is important to know the root cause of the disorder. TMJ pain can be tolerated daily by easing the pain with self care products but it is important to note that it may permanently alter the way you eat and speak if it remains untreated.   Continuous discomfort may cause other disorders such as depression. A right practitioner will identify the cause and advice or prescribe on the relevant essential oil. TMJ pain may seem insignificant at first but as time goes it becomes a bother by disrupting your daily operations.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.