The term TMJ can lead to a lot of confusion, but it’s just shorthand for the temporomandibular joint. This is the main joint in your jaw that connects your lower and upper jaws together where they meet your skull. When you develop issues with the TMJ due to nighttime teeth grinding, jaw clenching, or other problems, you’ll likely experience pain throughout your body. Thanks to the prevalence of this nerve throughout the neck and head, the pain won’t be limited to your jaw. All of these pain issues could be caused by a TMJ problem, so see your dentist if you notice any of the following challenges occurring on a regular basis.
One of the most common signs of a TMJ problem that isn’t immediately obvious is a chronic headache. While it may not reach the intensity of a full-blown migraine, this will be a headache that you might experience upon waking each day or by the end of an afternoon full of work. You may be clenching your jaw during the day or grinding your teeth at night, putting pressure on the nerves through the TMJ until they affect your head. Headaches caused by TMJ can cluster in the front of the head or even occur during the eyes, mimicking many signs of sinus pressure. It’s because many of the nerves that are compressed by the TMJ run up through the sinuses, along with the ears and the neck.
If you’re experiencing soreness or tightness in the jaw, you may lose interest in eating without even realizing it. This can lead to unexplained weight loss without many other signs of health issues. If you’re already trying to maintain a healthy weight and don’t need any loss, dealing with TMJ issues promptly is essential to maintaining a strong appetite. Even mild pain can indirectly discourage you from eating as often as you should, so talk to your doctor about your reduced appetite to make sure a dental issue isn’t a part of the problem.
Ringing in your ears is more serious than it sounds. Many people suffering from tinnitus find it difficult to focus on work, struggle to fall asleep, or experience a low level of stress from the constant noise. TMJ is a common cause of tinnitus because of the pressure it puts on the ears and the tubes within them. Treating jaw clenching or tooth grinding often reduces and relieves tinnitus over time. This can help you sleep and maintain your mental health by helping you appreciate true silence again.
Jaw Clicking and Tightness
Healthy jaws won’t click or feel tight when you try to open your mouth wide. You may notice these issues for the first time while at the dentist. Tell your dentist if it’s uncomfortable to open your mouth wide so they can check you for signs of TMJ. Clicking is also an issue that you should discuss even if it’s only occasional. It occurs due to jaw clenching, so solving that problem can quiet your jaw and keep it from growing tighter over time.
Aching and Tired Eyes
With pressure and pain traveling up your face from the jaw, TMJ problems can lead to aching around the eyes as well. You may just think you’re tired or have spent too much time staring at a computer screen. But if you take a break or feel the pain continuing after you wake up from a night’s rest, see your dentist. Referred pain in the eyes from TMJ problems like jaw clenching will also lead to headaches, so solve it promptly before the irritation spreads.
Neck and Shoulder Pain
Stress on the jaw travels downward as well. Tooth grinding at night in particular tends to lead to pain in the neck and shoulders. If you find yourself struggling to turn your head without sharp pain and you have a pillow designed for your sleeping position, get your jaw checked out next. TMJ issues can eventually keep you awake if they cause enough severe neck and shoulder pain due to pressure and muscle tightness.
Earaches and Hearing Loss
Returning earaches may leave you wondering if you’re dealing with an infection. But if your doctor can’t see any signs of infection from the outside with an otoscope, visit your dentist and ask about a TMJ checkup. If your jaw joints are swollen or experiencing tightness, you may be putting pressure on your ears as well. With severe jaw clenching, you can squeeze the tubes in the ears to the point where you experience minor hearing loss. Let your dentist solve the underlying problem so your ears stop bothering you as well.
Tingling and Numbness
Finally, you may note some tingling and numbness in your lips, jaw, chin, or neck when experiencing TMJ problems. These can be serious signs of other life-threatening conditions, so rule those out before turning to the TMJ diagnosis. When tingling remains an intermittent problem that you can’t trace to any other source, visit the dentist to see if you’re experiencing nerve issues related to tension in the jaw.
Don’t let TMJ problems spread through your neck, head, and upper body. Come visit us here at Eastgate Dental Excellence and discuss all of your symptoms with us. If we suspect you’re having TMJ issues, we can recommend a range of treatments to improve your overall health. Experience less pain and get better sleep by solving any jaw issues you might be experiencing.