Could These 4 Symptoms Actually Be a Sign of TMJ Disorder?

Symptoms of TMJ disorder

Symptoms That Could Point to a TMJ Disorder

A temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder affects the part of the body responsible for opening and closing the jaw, and it can cause an array of symptoms. You may already be familiar with those like jaw pain, clicking, and popping, but those aren’t the only indications of a temporomandibular disorder (TMD). 

Keep an eye out for these other potential signs:

1. TMJ Headaches

When you experience jaw dysfunction, you can find yourself grappling with a variety of symptoms that you might not even associate with your jaw at first. In fact, TMJ disorders can cause different types of ear pain, facial pain, and headaches, which are among the most commonly reported symptoms outside of jaw pain. 

Around 27% of patients with other TMJ-disorder symptoms also experience headaches. The complex arrangement of muscles and nerves, as well as the joint itself, can cause pain that feels comparable to a migraine.

Headaches, contrary to some popular beliefs, do not actually take place within the brain, given that the brain itself is unable to sense pain. Instead, they arise from nerves that surround muscles in the head and neck. The masseter, the strongest muscle in your body, is responsible for closing the jaw and thus undergoes a lot of pressure, meaning any dysfunction within it can cause pain to shoot through the other muscles in your head.

Headaches can also arise from other underlying dental issues. You could be dealing with an orthodontic problem such as bite misalignment, and tooth infections are another potential cause. In any case, frequent headaches are something you should bring up with your dentist.

2. Facial Pain

Your TMJs are located on either side of your face where your lower jawbone meets the skull. They are surrounded by muscles that are anchored to the skull and spread across your face and the sides of your head. When something is wrong with your TMJs or the surrounding muscles, you can experience pain practically anywhere around your head or neck.

Pain around the eyes, cheeks, mouth, and even the forehead can be related to a TMD. The strain on your muscles can result in general soreness or sharp pains, specifically when biting or chewing. Neck pain is another symptom to consider that few people tend to associate with TMJ disorders.

The wide area that a TMD can affect makes correlating symptoms difficult, so make sure that you bring up any pain you’re experiencing to your dentist, as a variety of seemingly unconnected details could help in diagnosing your problem.

3. Ear Pain

Your TMJs are also located directly in front of your ears, often around the same height as the ear canal. That proximity, however, leaves many patients who are suffering from TMDs unable to realize it, as they often believe that they have an ear infection or other ear-related issue.

You might notice a sharp pain that feels like it originates from the ear when chewing or when you open your jaw wide, as is typical when yawning. You may also experience the sensation of a full or clogged ear, which is a symptom often associated with infection, even though the true cause may be a TMD.

As such, pain that feels similar to an ear infection could actually be coming from a TMJ disorder, and though you should always seek out treatment for any potential ear infections, follow up with your dentist to discuss TMJ disorders.

4. Tinnitus

Another consequence of the temporomandibular joints’ proximity to the ears is the risk of tinnitus, which refers to the experience of hearing a high-pitched ringing (or similar unpleasant noises) even when no sound source is present. Your TMJs are close to your eardrums, so when the tissue around either of the two joints is inflamed, it can create a pressure sensation to the eardrum and upset its stabilization, causing you to hear ringing or feel pain.

If you experience tinnitus but do not have a history of ear injuries or other risk factors, a TMJ disorder could be the cause. This is especially true for younger people where other causes of tinnitus are far less common than TMDs.

Finding Treatment for Your TMJ Disorder

A TMJ disorder is a complex issue that requires insight into all aspects of how your jaw works and of your overall oral health. 

If you’ve experienced symptoms that may be related to TMJ disorder, don’t hesitate to visit Dr. Dimple Desai at Luminous Smiles. As a Kois-trained dentist, Dr. Desai has the education and experience needed to carefully assess your condition, identify the root causes of your TMJ disorder, and provide evidence-based treatment carefully developed to meet your unique needs.

Dr. Desai provides a range of treatments and interventions that can provide effective relief for TMJ disorders, and she is the sole female American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry-accredited doctor in Newport Beach. Schedule an evaluation with her today to get started.