TMD Symptoms, Causes, and Solutions

While it may sound strange to claim your jaw pain can also cause symptoms like frequent, severe headaches, eye and ear pain, dizziness, and stiff or aching muscles in your face, neck, shoulders, or back, it’s true. Since these symptoms seem so unrelated on the surface, you may not have connected the dots between them; in fact, you might be downright confused about the cause of your symptoms. It’s the TMJ’s complex, interconnected nature that allows it to cause a wide range of seemingly unrelated symptoms in different parts of the body.

If you’re suffering from one or more of these symptoms, along with jaw pain, you might be suffering from TMD, and the good news is your symptoms can usually be relieved with simple, non-invasive treatments. The key to treating your TMD is discovering what has caused the problem with your TMJ, such as habitually clenching or grinding your teeth, arthritis, an injury, or a misaligned bite. Since TMD is a complex condition, it’s normal to have a lot of questions about it. We’ve done our best to answer the most common questions to get you started on the road toward a pain-free life.

How will my dentist find the cause of my TMD?

If you don’t already have a pre-existing condition that’s the likely culprit of your jaw pain, such as arthritis, a joint disorder, or an injury, Dr. Fenn will examine the joints of your jaw and may need to take an X-ray or CT scan to get a good look at it and the surrounding soft tissues. During the diagnosis process, he may also refer you to a physician.

What are the causes of sudden TMJ pain?

Sudden TMJ pain can be the result of an infection or injury to your jaw, either to the joint itself or to the muscles or ligaments that allow it to function. If you’ve had increased stress levels lately, you may be grinding or clenching your teeth without realizing it, potentially even in your sleep, which can cause seemingly random jaw pain.

It’s important to be aware, however, that sudden jaw pain isn’t always due to TMD and can be linked to other health concerns, from an issue like sinusitis, which is an infection in your sinus cavity, to a more serious condition, like a heart attack. If your sudden-onset jaw pain is accompanied by pressure or pain in your chest, heartburn, shortness of breath, nausea, stomach pain, dizziness, or pain, pressure, or tingling in your arms, you may be experiencing a heart attack and should go to the nearest emergency room immediately. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

What are a few ways to relieve my TMJ pain?

The pain from TMD can be debilitating, so knowing how to manage your pain during a flare-up is vital. To avoid putting too much stress on your jaw, stick to soft foods, don’t put your hand on your jaw to prop your head up, and try not to open your mouth wide to yawn, sing, speak loudly, or take huge bites of food. You can also massage your sore muscles, try acupuncture, or use ice packs and warm, moist heat from a damp cloth to soothe your pain, depending on its cause; ice is best for inflammation, while warm heat is best for tight, sore muscles. When this isn’t quite enough, try using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medications or muscle relaxants.

How do you cure TMD?

This depends upon the root cause of your TMJ pain. In cases of an injury or other temporary causes, simply resting the joint or using specialized exercises to strengthen the muscles around it can help reduce or eliminate your pain. If the cause of your TMJ tooth pain and sensitivity is because you’re clenching or grinding your teeth, you can focus on lowering your stress and anxiety levels or wear a night guard to prevent yourself from grinding your teeth at night. You can also try a splint, which keeps your jaw in its ideal position overnight to keep from stressing it too much, or you can receive orthodontic treatments to resolve issues with a misaligned bite. In more extreme cases, surgery can be performed on the joint itself, but these surgeries should always be a last resort because the outcome isn’t guaranteed, and they can cause a fair amount of pain for you during the healing process.

Is there any way to cure TMJ pain naturally?

Although TMJ pain can often be remedied using natural, non-invasive methods, this isn’t always the case; some issues simply require more involved treatment to solve. For many people, however, resolving their TMJ pain is as simple as avoiding putting unnecessary stress on the jaw and practicing strengthening and stretching exercises for its muscles. Additionally, if your jaw pain is due to an injury, simply allowing the injury time to heal and potentially visiting a physical therapist can cure your pain without the need for further intervention.

What is the best pain medication for TMD?

Since a lot of the pain in your jaw is often caused by inflammation in the joint or the surrounding muscles, anti-inflammatory pain medications, like aspirin and ibuprofen, are often the best types of pain medication to take. If your muscles are tight and stiff, you may also find that over-the-counter muscle relaxants help you.

Are TMD and fast pulsation interrelated?

While you might feel a fast throbbing sensation in your ears or jaw due to TMD, this throbbing should be unrelated to your actual heart rate. Instead, the throbbing is due to inflammation and increased pressure, which can spread from your jaw to your ears. If you feel like you’re experiencing a faster heart rate than normal, check your pulse to see if it’s actually abnormally fast. If it is, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor or, depending on other potential symptoms, visit the emergency room.

How can TMD cause eye pain?

The inflammation in your jaw can spread to other parts of your body, causing pain in a number of different muscles, your ears, and even causing the nerves in your eyes to become inflamed. When this happens, it can cause a throbbing pain behind your eyes, as well as blurred vision.

What causes muscle cramping under the chin?

When there’s something wrong with your TMJ, the muscles around your jaw all begin to work overtime to compensate; this causes a chain reaction, potentially overworking the muscles around your jaw, head, neck, shoulders, and even your back. This can result in pain, stiff muscles, and muscle spasms in these areas, including the muscles under your chin.

The symptoms of TMD can be wide-ranging and debilitating, impacting everything from your sleep schedule to your social life. It takes a little work to figure out what’s causing your pain and to find a treatment that works for you, but with a little perseverance, you can reclaim an active, pain-free life!