6 Signs You Should Seek Professional Care for TMJ

lady with pain from TMJ
tmj disorder symptoms and treatment

Professional Care for TMJ

TMJ is a condition that causes pain and discomfort. These TMJ disorder symptoms can result from stress, poor posture, or even trauma and can cause problems in the teeth, mouth, and neck. If you have any problems with your jaw, teeth, or neck, consider consulting a professional. If you suspect you have TMJ, taking action as soon as possible is essential. The following are some signs and symptoms of TMJ to look out for.

1. Jaw Ache

When you have a temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ, you will likely experience pain and discomfort. If you suffer from this condition, you must learn the signs of TMJ disorder and that you need professional care.

One of the most common symptoms of a TMJ is jaw pain. 

In addition, patients will often experience 

  • neck stiffness, 
  • headaches, 
  • and other health problems.                                                        

Symptoms of TMJ disorder may vary from person to person. Some people experience only a minor ache and swelling, while others suffer from chronic pain. Fortunately, there are several treatment options for TMJ.

  • The first line of care for TMJ is usually non-invasive. However, if you need more help, your doctor can prescribe more potent pain relievers or steroid injections. Often, these treatment options include over-the-counter medications and simple stretching exercises.

  • You can also get a prescription for a muscle relaxant to help ease tight muscles. NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen can also reduce symptoms.

  • You should have a panoramic X-ray to get a complete picture of your TMJ. This test can reveal the bones of your face and teeth.

  • Another option is to have a full-face MRI. A CT scan will give a more detailed view of your TMJs and their relationship with your facial bones during this procedure.

  • A dental splint can also provide pressure relief and correct compression issues. These can be soft or hard. Generally, the sling slips over your teeth and provides support.

  • Other treatments involve transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, which uses low-level electrical currents to reduce pain and stimulate the joint. You can do this in your doctor's office or at home.

For additional help, visit a physical therapist who can teach you jaw-stretching techniques. They will also be able to identify behaviors that can worsen your condition.

2. Mouth Pain

You may show signs of TMJ disorder if you experience mouth pain. This disorder affects the temporomandibular joint, a hinge-like joint that connects the upper and lower jawbones.

A person with TMJ may also experience 

  • chronic pain, 
  • a painful clicking sound in the jaw, 
  • ringing in the ears, 
  • or problems chewing and speaking. 

You should consult your doctor to ensure you get the best care possible. There are several treatment options for this condition.

Before going to the doctor, you should be able to identify the symptoms of TMJ. The most common symptom is pain in the mouth. Other TMJ disorder symptoms include pain in the temple, neck stiffness, ringing in the ears, and difficulty swallowing.

Your dentist or oral health professional can help you diagnose and treat the problem. They can perform an examination and even X-rays. During the exam, they will look at your face, head, neck, and teeth to determine if you have a temporomandibular disorder.

Some TMJ patients will need more tests, such as CT scans. A CT scan can show a clear picture of the jaw, including bony detail. MRIs can also provide a full view of the face.

To reduce the pain, your doctor can prescribe medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), ibuprofen, or naproxen. You should take these medications according to the instructions on the label.

For some, a dental specialist can perform transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. The procedure uses low-level electric currents to relieve pain. It can be performed at the dentist's office or at home.

Another treatment option is to use an ice pack. Ice packs can be applied to the affected area for ten minutes at a time. Applying a warm towel to the side of the face can also be helpful.

3. Neck Pain

The neck can be one of the most affected body parts when you have untreated TMJ problems. This condition can cause aches and pains, especially when the jaw is locked. If your neck pain is related to TMJ, you should visit a doctor to have the symptoms properly diagnosed.

There are many things you can do to help reduce your neck pain, such as:

  • Changing your posture, 
  • sleeping on a firm mattress, 
  • and avoiding certain activities. 
  • You can also apply heat to the sore areas.

Your doctor can prescribe medications that relieve muscle spasms, such as anti-anxiety drugs. They may also suggest a range of motion exercises and massage.

You can also work with a physical therapist to improve your posture and stretch your muscles. You should avoid carrying shoulder bags or driving with your arms on the armrests. A doctor can also suggest imaging studies to see if the untreated TMJ is causing your neck pain.

If your TMJ pain is mild, your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant to relieve your symptoms. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, are also effective.

If your TMJ dysfunction is more severe, your doctor can recommend a range of therapy options. 

They may include:

  •  Manual therapy, 
  • strengthening exercises, 
  • and jaw rest. 
  • In some cases, your physician may refer you to a neurologist.

You can also use over-the-counter pain relief creams or pills, such as ibuprofen. However, your healthcare provider may recommend a higher dose of NSAIDs to treat your condition.

Surgical treatment is also an option. 

Depending on your situation, your healthcare provider might recommend an arthrocentesis, TMJ arthroscopy, or modified Condylotomy.

4. Headaches

TMJ headaches are not something to be taken lightly. They are a pain that can be debilitating, interfering with your daily activities. You need to know how to identify and treat them to prevent them from becoming more severe.

Headaches can occur for many different reasons, but they are common complaints. If you have them regularly, it is a good idea to get them checked out by a physician. 

A TMJ disorder is one of the more common causes of chronic headaches. It is usually treated with pain relievers, heat packs, and exercises. While these treatments are often effective, they are not permanent.

Other signs of TMJ disorder include: 

  • jaw stiffness, 
  • neck discomfort, 
  • and jaw-popping or clicking sounds. 
Often, you may not even notice the symptoms for weeks or months.

One of the best ways to diagnose a TMJ disorder is to have a dentist perform a thorough examination. The dentist will be able to detect if you have a temporomandibular joint condition and will prescribe the appropriate treatment.

Some TMJ disorders require surgery, but in most cases, the pain goes away on its own. In the meantime, you can try biobehavioral therapies to help you deal with the pain you experience.

You may be tempted to take over-the-counter medications for your headaches. However, it is essential to note that the optimum solution for a TMJ headache is to address the muscles involved.

In addition to the medications, you should also seek professional care if your headaches are persistent. An evaluation by a TMJ dentist or a physical therapist will be beneficial in determining what your problem is and what steps you can take to address it.

5. Earaches

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a complex structure that allows the jaw to move and connects the skull to the lower jaw. Injuries, stress, and other factors can damage it.

One of the main signs and symptoms of TMJ is ear pain. In fact, it's the most common symptom. An earache can be dull, sharp, and constant. While it may subside over time, it's always best to seek professional care if it doesn't.

Various conditions, including tonsillitis and pharyngitis, can cause earaches. They're most common in children but can happen to adults too.

Some ENT doctors believe that the most common cause of ear pain in adults is TMJ. Though they can be similar, signs and symptoms of TMJ are often confused with those of ear infections.

If your earaches are severe or persistent, you should visit an ear, nose, and throat doctor, or a dentist, to diagnose the underlying condition. Treatment can be effective and prevent the symptoms from coming back.

People with TMJ can experience several symptoms, including 

  • hearing loss, 
  • tinnitus, 
  • and vertigo. 

This can interfere with your ability to sleep and perform everyday tasks, but treatments are available.

Taking medicine isn't required, but it can help manage the pain. During treatment, your dentist may use a mouth guard to help alleviate TMJ symptoms. You can also take an anti-inflammatory medication.

Sometimes a simple cold compress placed on the affected ear can provide relief. Medicated ear drops or antibiotics may be prescribed.

Earaches are a nuisance, but chronic ones could indicate a more serious medical condition. A serious disease, such as a bacterial or viral infection, can result in permanent hearing loss.

6. Swallowing Troubles

One of the first signs that you should seek professional care for TMJ is if you have trouble swallowing. Swallowing is a complicated process, and many factors can affect it.

Sometimes, you may have difficulty swallowing because of a condition in your esophagus. This is called dysphagia. Other causes of dysphagia include a tumor, a blockage, or a muscle disorder in your throat.

Other problems can occur in your neck, jaw, and ear. These problems can lead to pain and soreness. Fortunately, several treatments can help ease the discomfort. You can consult a dental specialist if you suffer from these symptoms.

During this visit, your healthcare provider will ask you about your jaw pain and whether you have had a history of jaw noise. They will also conduct a physical exam and look for untreated TMJ symptoms.

You will also be given a Videofluoroscopic Swallow Study. This test will record how you swallow and how the process works.


You should contact your healthcare provider to schedule an evaluation if you are experiencing these signs and symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorders. Treatment for TMJ dysfunction is available and can be successful. Some people will benefit from physical therapy and other nonsurgical treatments.

AUTHOR: James Roberts is a Marketing Consultant for The Center for Sleep Apnea and TMJ in Idaho. With an experience of over 20 years, his work is focused solely on treating sleep apnea, snoring, TMJ disorders, and head and facial pain. He works hand in hand with physicians and dentists to help alleviate these issues. 

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