woman holding jaw in pain

What Happens if TMJ Is Left Untreated?

Team TMJ Disorder, TMJ Treatment

TMJ disorder starts in the jaw, but it has far-reaching effects that extend beyond the temporomandibular joints. Unfortunately, the longer you wait to treat your TMJ pain, the more likely you will develop serious symptoms. Dr. Coats is a recognized expert in the diagnosis and treatment of TMJ disorders. This is critical because treating TMJ pain necessitates a thorough understanding of its causes and the creation of a personalized treatment plan that addresses the root of your symptoms.

Here are some of the consequences of untreated TMJ disorder.

Chronic Jaw Pain and Joint Damage

When you first develop TMJ symptoms, you may experience intermittent jaw pain that is exacerbated by stress or even simply chewing gum or opening your mouth too wide when you yawn.

Damage to the temporomandibular joint accumulates over time, leading to chronic pain and other bothersome symptoms, such as jaw cracking, popping, and locking. The discomfort and inflammation can extend beyond your joints, causing pain across your face, neck, and shoulders.

You may need surgery to relieve your pain if the bones in your joints have deteriorated to the point where they no longer function. It's important to take a proactive approach to TMJ pain in order to avoid permanent joint injury or jaw dislocation.


Tension headaches and migraines are common symptoms of TMJ disorder. In fact, one of the most common symptoms of TMJ disorder is headaches. Since these headaches are caused by ever-present joint inflammation, they can be crippling and chronic—as soon as the pain relievers or muscle relaxers you take wear off, the headache returns because the underlying cause is never resolved. Chronic headaches can cause you to miss work, school, and even important life events.

Compromised Oral Health

Untreated TMD is linked to teeth grinding and jaw clenching, which wear away your tooth enamel over time and expose your teeth to potential fractures. Furthermore, since one side of the jaw is often preferred over the other, TMJ disorder may result in irregular tooth wear, asymmetrical muscle growth, and uneven swelling of the face. This can affect your facial appearance.

Hearing Problems

Since the temporomandibular joints are so close to the ear canals, patients often experience TMD symptoms in their ears. Untreated TMJ can lead to tinnitus (ringing in the ears), which can make it difficult to sleep and focus, and also feelings of fullness or stuffiness in the canals. Since the body's sense of balance is located in the inner ears, TMD-related muscle inflammation can affect balance, causing dizziness, vertigo, and unsteadiness.

Other Symptoms

The tension and pain caused by TMD can wreak havoc throughout your body. Patients who suffer from chronic, untreated TMJ disorder may experience numbness or tingling in their hands and fingers, have one shoulder that is higher than the other, or even notice that their heads are tilted to the side when they look at themselves in the mirror or in photos.

Learn More About TMJ Disorder

Do you suspect you have TMJ disorder? To determine the best course of treatment for your unique needs, Dr. Coats will listen to your symptoms, evaluate your jaw and bite, and diagnose the root cause of your pain. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation.