2 Classic and 2 Not-So-Classic Signs of TMJ Disorder and What to Do

Know the signs of TMJ disorder

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders are a relatively common issue that can cause acute and chronic pain. Many people aren’t fully aware of TMJ disorders and the signs that can point to this issue. 

Watch out for a few of these better-known signs, along with others that you typically might not associate with TMJ disorders. If you feel you are noticing any signs of TMJ dysfunction, there are effective treatments for TMJ disorders that you can seek out, and that your dentist can help you with.

What Is TMJ Disorder?

A TMJ disorder (TMD) is a condition affecting the temporomandibular joint or the muscles and tissue surrounding it. The TMJ is the joint on either side of your jawbone that connects the jawbone to the skull. It’s the most complex joint system that we have, acting like a sliding hinge that allows for a wide variety of movements.

There are several key muscles that move the TMJ, including the masseter muscle responsible for closing the jaws. The masseter is the strongest muscle in the human body, responsible for biting and chewing tough foods. With such a complex system under massive forces, it’s no wonder that TMJ disorders develop so frequently.

TMJ disorders can arise from several different types of damage. For example, the disk of the joint can become damaged or dislocated. The cartilage around the joint can also suffer damage from arthritis. Any physical trauma to the area can contribute to a TMJ disorder, as can stress and inflammation in the surrounding muscles.

1. Popping and Clicking Noises

One of the most well-known signs of TMD is the development of popping and clicking noises when moving your jaw. Like other joints, the TMJ can develop various issues that lead to irregular sounds during movement.

Popping and clicking noises can sometimes occur when opening your mouth too wide. However, if you notice these noises in other scenarios, then there’s a good chance that you may be dealing with a TMJ disorder. 

These sounds could indicate that the lower jaw is slipping on and off the disc of the joint. This can cause continuous wear over time, eventually leading to pain and other symptoms. Prevention is always the best course of action for TMJ disorders, so seeking out a diagnosis before more serious symptoms occur is your best option.

2. Jaw Pain

Pain or tenderness in the jaw area is another one of the key signs of TMD. Damage to the joint can cause considerable pain when moving the jaw, especially given the significant force involved in chewing. You might experience a dull chronic ache or sharp pains.

Jaw pain can also arise from inflammation of the muscles surrounding the TMJ. There are a variety of issues that can cause this. For instance, you could be experiencing bruxism, the unconscious clenching and grinding of your teeth.

There is also a wide range of misalignment and bite issues that can cause excess strain on your jaw. In some cases, orthodontic treatment could be required to resolve the issue. In any case, reaching out to your dentist about jaw pain is the best route forward to find out what’s wrong.

3. Pain that Feels Like an Earache

While the link between TMJ disorders and jaw pain may be immediately clear, the condition can also cause pain that most people would attribute to other issues. TMJ disorders can cause pain and tenderness over a very wide area, including the face, jaw, neck, shoulders, and around the ear.

In many cases, this pain can feel distinctly like an earache that might be caused by infection or other issues. The hinges of the TMJ are located on either side of the face directly in front of the ear. Any pain or inflammation in the area can feel very similar to common ear issues.

4. Headaches

TMJ disorders are also known to contribute to headaches. People might experience something similar to a tension headache, although symptoms can vary widely. Many of the issues linked to TMJ disorders can lead to headaches.

Grinding and clenching are very common in cases of TMJ disorders and can lead to headaches. The strain and inflammation associated with muscles in the face and neck can also cause people to experience headaches.

Effective Treatment Options for TMJ Disorder

If you’ve noticed any signs of TMJ dysfunction, it’s worth visiting your dentist to determine the cause and what can be done about it. The Tooth Doc can provide a range of treatment options for your TMJ disorder in Nebraska, whether it’s caused by grinding and clenching, trauma, or a problematic bite. Contact our Omaha office to book your appointment today.