9 Bothersome Symptoms That Can Be Signs of TMJ Disorder

Don't ignore TMJ symptoms

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, also called TMD, is a condition that affects the temporomandibular joint, which connects the jawbone to the skull. This joint is located in front of the ear on each side of the head and allows you to open and close your mouth, chew, speak, and swallow. TMD can cause pain and discomfort in the jaw, face, neck, and shoulders, as well as cause headaches, earaches, and ear ringing. It can also lead to difficulty opening and closing your mouth, clicking or popping sounds when you move your jaw, and stiffness or locking of the jaw. It’s estimated that about 11 to 12 million adults in the U.S. suffer from this condition.

TMJ Symptoms to be Aware of 

Before we share the symptoms of this disorder, we should explain that the terms TMJ and TMD are often used interchangeably, but they refer to different things.

Since TMJ refers to the physical joint itself, and TMD refers to any problem or dysfunction that affects the joint, if you’re experiencing pain or discomfort in your jaw, face, or neck, it could be a sign of TMD. Symptoms can vary from person to person, ranging from mild to severe. Whether you’re dealing with occasional jaw pain or chronic TMJ pain, understanding the symptoms and treatment options can help you find relief and improve your quality of life.

1. Jaw Pain and Jaw Locking 

Jaw pain and jaw locking are common signs of TMD since the TMJ is responsible for the movement of the jaw, and any dysfunction in this joint can cause pain, discomfort, or limited movement. 

2. Ear Pain

Because of the TMJ’s close proximity to the ear, problems with the joint can cause pain that feels like it’s coming from the ear. This type of pain can be confusing because it can be difficult to determine whether it is coming from the ear or the jaw.

3. Tinnitus

The TMJ is located close to the inner ear, and problems with the muscles and joints in the jaw can affect the inner ear and cause tinnitus. The muscles and joints in the jaw can affect the bones and tissues in the inner ear, leading to changes in how sounds are processed. Further, TMD can cause muscle tension, inflammation, or other types of damage to the muscles and joints in the jaw. This can change how the jaw moves or functions, affecting the inner ear and causing tinnitus. Sometimes, tinnitus may accompany other symptoms, such as ear pain or fullness.

4. Headaches and Migraines 

Some people with TMD experience nerve pain or inflammation in the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for facial and head sensations. This can cause pain and discomfort in the face and head, triggering headaches or migraines. TMD can cause tension in the muscles of the face, neck, and shoulders, which can also lead to headaches and migraines.

5. Back, Neck, and Cervical Pain 

Tension in the jaw and neck muscles can cause pain in various areas of the upper body. The TMJ is located close to the cervical spine, which is the part of the spine that runs from the base of the skull down to the shoulders. When the muscles around the TMJ become tense, they can also affect the surrounding muscles and tissues, leading to pain and discomfort in the neck, shoulders, and upper back.

6. Numbness 

The nerves that pass through the jaw and neck provide sensation to various parts of the face, arms, and hands. These nerves can become compressed or irritated if there is pressure on them, such as muscle tension or inflammation in the jaw and neck. When this happens, it can cause numbness or tingling sensations in the affected areas. Numbness or tingling in the face, arms, or hands can be a sign of TMD.

7. Loud Clicking and Popping Sounds

Loud clicking and popping sounds in the jaw are common symptoms of TMD. These sounds can be alarming and uncomfortable but don’t typically indicate a serious medical problem. The sounds are usually caused by problems with the alignment or movement of the jaw joint, which can cause the bones to rub or click against each other.

The TMJ is a complex joint connecting the jawbone to the skull; it’s responsible for a wide range of movements, including chewing, speaking, and yawning. When the joint works properly, the bones glide smoothly against each other, protected by a layer of cartilage. However, if the joint is misaligned or the cartilage is damaged, the bones can rub or click against each other, producing a loud popping or clicking sound.

8. Problems with Forward Posture 

TMD causes discomfort or pain in the neck and shoulders due to the connection between the jaw, neck, and shoulder muscles. When the jaw is misaligned or not functioning properly, the muscles in the neck and shoulders can become overworked and strained, leading to pain or discomfort. This can cause changes in posture, including forward head posture, when the head is pushed forward and out of alignment with the rest of the spine. Forward head posture can strain the muscles and joints in the neck and shoulders, leading to further pain and discomfort.

When left untreated, forward head posture can become a chronic condition, leading to additional problems such as decreased range of motion, stiffness, and chronic pain. It can also cause headaches and migraines.

9. Dizziness and Vertigo

If you have TMD, it can affect the balance mechanisms of the inner ear, leading to dizziness or vertigo. When the joint is not functioning properly, it puts pressure on the inner ear and affects its ability to maintain balance.

The inner ear contains a complex system of canals and chambers that help to maintain balance and sense movement. As such, if there is pressure or inflammation in the jaw joint, it can affect the function of the inner ear and lead to dizziness, vertigo, or imbalance.

Dr. Alhadef specializes in neuromuscular dentistry, which can help alleviate your TMJ symptoms.

Neuromuscular dentistry is an approach to dental care that focuses on the complex relationship between the teeth, muscles, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ). It recognizes that these three components are interconnected and can significantly impact each other. However, traditional dentistry focuses primarily on the teeth and their alignment, while the muscles and joints are often overlooked. Dentists specializing in neuromuscular dentistry, such as Dr. Alhadef at Dallas Cosmetic Dental, take a more holistic approach and consider the entire system. This includes examining the patient’s bite, the alignment of their jaw, and the health of their muscles and TMJ.

Neuromuscular dentistry may involve using orthotic TMJ splints to help align the jaw and alleviate pressure on the TMJ. It may also involve physical therapy or other interventions to help relax and strengthen the muscles in the jaw and neck. Dr. Alhadef will use a TENS machine to determine your best bite position. So if you require restorative dentistry in the future, your restoration solution is custom fit based on your ideal bite.

Request an appointment to discuss your TMJ symptoms today.

If you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms on our list, you may need neuromuscular dentistry for TMD. We can help relieve your TMJ pain and bring you the comfort you deserve. Request an appointment with Dallas Cosmetic Dental today.