TMJ DISORDERS: SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
Craniofacial pain and TMJ disorders can be difficult to diagnose because the signs and symptoms, which often vary from one patient to the next, can mimic dozens of other disorders. That’s why TMJ disorder is often called “the great imposter."
Common signs and symptoms of TMJ disorders include:
- Headaches, neck aches and/or backaches
- Non-restful sleep, dry mouth and coughing
- Difficulty opening or closing your mouth, biting, chewing, talking or singing
- Clicking, popping or grating sounds when opening or closing your mouth
- Jaw pain, stiffness or tenderness
- Muscle spasms around the jaw joints
- Inability to naturally rest your teeth together when your mouth is closed
- Earaches and tinnitus (i.e., ringing in the ears)
- Dizziness and vertigo
- Teeth clenching and grinding i.e., bruxism)
Many TMJ-related symptoms are caused by the effects of physical stress on the associated muscles and structures that surround your jaw joints. For example, yawning too widely or holding your head forward while looking at a computer all day can strain your facial and neck muscles, and this can aggravate TMJ symptoms. Other factors that may make TMJ symptoms worse include poor posture, stress, poor diet and lack of sleep.
Does this sound familiar?
- Your doctor gave you a prescription migraine medication but it doesn’t seem to help. We see patients every day who think they are experiencing migraine-type headaches but who actually have tension-type headaches or a sleep breathing disorder such as sleep apnea.
- You are experiencing dizziness and ringing in your ears; yet, your doctor cannot find anything wrong. Problems with your jaw joints and related muscles can disrupt your ears, which help to regulate your balance. You would likely benefit from a consultation with a qualified dentist who can rule in or rule out a TMJ disorder.
- You are being treated for a TMJ disorder but do not sleep well, wake up with a dry mouth and never feel rested. This may be because patients who suffer from TMJ disorders often have sleep apnea, which all too often goes undiagnosed. However, the screening and management of sleep apnea and other sleep-disordered breathing problems that we do helps our TMJ patients achieve optimal outcomes from treatment.
TMJ disorders are common, but they can be challenging to diagnose because of the complex anatomy of the temporomandibular joint as well as the arrangement of nerves and distribution of nerve impulses to the head, face and neck. If you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms of a TMJ disorder, and/or you are not getting the results you and your doctor anticipated from your current treatment, please contact us.
We are happy to provide you with more information about craniofacial pain and TMJ disorders, which can often be perplexing health issues.
Tips for Relieving Jaw Pain
While they cannot replace diagnosis and treatment by a qualified dentist, here are a few things you can do to relieve jaw joint pain:
- Eat soft foods such as oatmeal, yogurt and soups to let your jaw joint rest.
- Do not chew gum.
- Apply ice immediately after a TMJ injury to decrease pain and swelling.
- Use moist heat to relax tight jaw muscles and increase blood flow.
- Do not yawn too widely or rest the phone on your jaw while talking; both of these actions can put added stress on your jaw joints.
- If you need to be at a computer for long periods, make sure your monitor is at eye level and that you have a healthy, ergonomic workspace. (You might also want to set a timer to help you remember to take short breaks and move around a bit).