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Symptoms and Signs of TMJ

Symptoms and Signs of TMJ Disorder

Dentist Eden Prairie

Temporomandibular joint disorder (sometimes called TMD, TMJD, or just TMJ) is not just one condition. It’s a group of related conditions that affect your jaw system with potentially far-reaching consequences. One challenge in diagnosing TMJ disorder is identifying it. The challenge is partly due to the numerous potential signs and symptoms linked to the condition.

Fortunately, Minneapolis TMJ dentist Dr. Kevin Bril has extensive experience helping people get effective TMJ treatment, which starts with a precise TMJ diagnosis. He can help you understand your symptoms and get relief.

TMJ Symptoms

TMJ symptoms are diverse, and it’s not always immediately apparent that your different symptoms might be related to a single condition. People with TMJ might spend years trying to track down the cause of their symptoms. Sometimes, their doctor will diagnose one condition or another that covers some of the symptoms. They might prescribe one or more treatments related to their diagnosis. However, because their diagnosis doesn’t identify the true cause of their condition, their treatment doesn’t resolve all the symptoms.

Some symptoms people experience include:

  • Headaches and migraines
  • Jaw pain
  • Jaw sounds
  • Irregular jaw motion
  • Locked jaw or limited jaw motion
  • Toothaches
  • Tooth damage and tooth wear
  • Ringing the ears (tinnitus)
  • Vertigo
  • Ear pain
  • Ear fullness
  • Face pain
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Back pain
  • Tingling or numbness in the face, neck, jaw, arms, or fingers

If you have three or more of these symptoms (especially three or more from different parts of the body), you should talk to a Minneapolis TMJ dentist.

Headaches Linked to TMJ

Headaches are one of the most persistent symptoms of TMJ that causes people to seek treatment. However, this is also one of the symptoms that can often lead to misdiagnosis. People are often diagnosed with a primary tension headache or migraine when their headaches are secondary to TMJ.

If you have persistent headaches and your current treatment isn’t giving you good results, consult Minneapolis TMJ dentist Dr. Bril, to see if TMJ might be responsible for your headaches.

Jaw Symptoms of TMJ

TMJ is primarily a jaw disorder, so it causes many jaw-related symptoms. TMJ-related jaw pain comes in many forms, including pain in the muscles, pain in the joint, pain in the bone, and nerve-triggered pain that might be felt anywhere in the jaw or face.

In addition to jaw pain, you might experience jaw sounds like popping or clicking. Popping and clicking sounds are often associated with irregular jaw motion. Your jaw might jerk suddenly as it makes these sounds. Other times, you might experience a grinding sound or sensation in your jaw joints. These are often linked to limited jaw movement–even a locked jaw.

Tooth Symptoms of TMJ

TMJ can be linked to tooth damage and excessive wear. Often, this is because you are clenching and grinding your teeth. Sometimes stress triggers clenching and grinding. Other times your jaw just doesn’t feel comfortable in its current position, and your muscles are grinding to find a better position. Badly worn teeth, chipped teeth, and cracked teeth might all be due to TMJ.

In addition, TMJ can cause seemingly mysterious toothaches. The tooth might hurt because of pressure from clenching and grinding. Other times it might be referred pain. You are experiencing jaw pain, but your brain interprets it as a toothache.

Ear Symptoms of TMJ

Ear symptoms are very common in TMJ. Some studies show that perhaps 80% of people with TMJ experience some ear symptoms.

TMJ can cause ear symptoms because of the close relationship between the ear and the jaw joint. Your inner ear is housed in the skull’s temporal bone. That is the “temporo-” in the temporomandibular joint. Pressure on the temporal bone could cause some TMJ symptoms, such as earaches, feelings of fullness, and vertigo.

In addition, the delicate bones in the middle ear have functional connections to your jaw. When the jaw system is unbalanced, these connections can lead to ear dysfunction, including tinnitus–ringing in the ears–or hearing loss.

Distant Symptoms of TMJ

All these symptoms occur in places close to the jaw, but not all TMJ occurs near the jaw joint. The effects of TMJ can propagate through the body to cause symptoms far from your jaw.

Often, TMJ symptoms spread because your body’s muscles work together. When jaw muscles become overworked, they demand more help from their partner muscles. This increases the strain on those muscles, which become overworked. Jaw pain leads to neck pain, shoulder pain, and back pain. This isn’t always a direct association. Your jaw plays an important role in stabilizing your core. When you have jaw imbalance, other stabilizing muscles have to take up the slack, which can make them tired, sore, or strained.

Another way TMJ can spread symptoms through the body is through the spine. When the jaw is out of balance, it can pull cervical vertebrae out of alignment. This creates a tilt in the spine, and the body tries to compensate by tilting back and forth, creating a sinuous shape in your spine. This can then narrow the gap between vertebrae, pinching nerves as they leave the spinal column. Nerve pinching can lead to tingling and numbness in your extremities, especially your fingers.

Accurate TMJ Diagnosis in Minneapolis

If the above description of TMJ symptoms makes you think you might have the condition, it’s time to talk to an expert. Minneapolis TMJ dentist Dr. Kevin Bril will talk to you about your disorder, then perform a comprehensive exam to determine whether TMJ is causing them.

Please call (952) 944-2052 or use our online form to request an appointment at Brilliant Dentistry, serving the Minneapolis area from Eden Prairie.

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