When most people think about TMJ disorder, they think of three symptoms: popping, clicking, and jaw pain. What you may not know is that you can have TMJ disorder without any of these issues. So what does TMJ pain feel like and how do you know if you have it? Read on to find out.
Common TMJ Disorder Symptoms
Your body works as a system, which means when one part is out-of-balance, it can cause a range of unexpected symptoms throughout the body. This is certainly true when it comes to your temporomandibular joints. While these small joints are located near the temples, where your lower jaw attaches to the rest of your skull, dysfunction in the TMJ can cause pain from your head to your fingertips.
Here are some common types of pain that may be associated with TMJ disorder.
The jaw pain you experience could be sharp and sudden, like when opening your mouth wide to yawn, or it could be a persistent aching feeling. You might notice that it’s worse in the morning, in which case you may grind your teeth or clench your jaw in your sleep. It’s common for both temporomandibular joints to be painful, but it’s also possible that only one joint could hurt.
The headaches associated with TMJ disorder can range from your garden variety aching pain to debilitating migraines and tension headaches caused by tight muscles throughout the face, jaw, neck, and shoulders. Your headaches may feel like they originate at the temples near the temporomandibular joints, but a headache doesn’t necessarily need to be located near the temples to be caused by the TMJ.
Tooth Pain and Damage
For many patients, TMJ disorder is caused by nighttime teeth grinding and jaw clenching, which can also cause dental pain. Grinding your teeth wears away the enamel, leading to painful sensitivity, and the stress these habits put on your teeth can result in chips and fractures. In some cases, a patient may have a crack in a tooth that is impossible to diagnose without specialized equipment, which can cause severe pain and infection.
If you have TMJ disorder, it’s common to have facial pain, particularly around the temples, behind the eyes, around the ears, or where your jaw and neck meet. These areas can be tender to the touch. Earaches and feelings of fullness are common with TMJ issues because the temporomandibular joints are located near the ear canals, so when they’re inflamed and sore, it can cause symptoms in the ears.
Back, Neck, and Shoulder Pain
Tension in the jaw often leads to tension in your neck, shoulders, and upper back. These symptoms are very common with TMJ disorder and, in fact, may be more noticeable to some patients than the pain in their jaws, causing them to be misdiagnosed. Addressing dysfunction in the temporomandibular joints may finally be what they need to get relief from their chronic pain.