While general jaw pain is relatively common, your jaw pain could also be an indication of something more serious. For this reason, we’ve put together a guide that tells you everything you need to know about the symptoms of TMJ.
What is TMJ?
TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint – a joint that connects your lower jaw to your skin. It can be found on both the left and right-hand sides of your head. The joint enables your jaw to open and close, helping you to eat and speak. This disorder impacts the joint in your jaw, leading to highly painful symptoms for those who are experiencing TMJ.
Symptoms of TMJ
1. You Experience Other Pain in Addition to the Jaw Pain
Due to the location of the temporomandibular joint, many people who have TMJ experience headaches, earaches, and migraines in addition to jaw pain. If there is something wrong with the joint itself, TMJ may cause you to tense the muscles in your neck, back, and face, which often leads to pain in those areas.
2. Jaw Popping
People with TMJ often say that they can hear popping, grinding, and clicking sounds in their jaw whenever they chew, talk, or open their mouths. While this symptom is painless, it is common in people with TMJ. Saying that, however, people who have general jaw pain (and not TMJ disorder) can also hear these jaw noises.
3. Difficulty Biting or Chewing
As your mouth and jaw may be feeling restricted, you could encounter problems with biting, eating, and chewing. You may find it hard to close and open your mouth, which will inevitably make chewing difficult. Some patients even go on to say that their bite feels uncomfortable – as though their teeth aren’t fitting together properly.
4. Limited Jaw Movement
People with TMJ disorder often find that they can’t open their mouths all the way and that their mouth isn’t moving from side to side easily. Occasionally, those with TMJ may also experience their jaw getting stuck. In other words, they’ll open or close their mouth and it’ll be stuck in that position.
5. Facial Fatigue
You may feel that your facial muscles are tired. This is a different symptom to facial pain, which is explored under symptom number one above. Patients often claim that it feels like their entire face is exhausted and as though their facial muscles have been overworked. In some cases, it’s not the TMJ itself that causes facial fatigue, but the stress and muscle tension instead.
Contact your dentist if you’re experiencing these symptoms. They will examine your jaw by listening to it as you open and close your mouth, observe the range of motion, and carry out dental x-rays and CT scans before giving you a diagnosis.