TMJ Causes Multiple Kinds of Jaw Pain

As we’ve talked about before, TMJ is a widely varied condition–many even like to describe it as a group of disorders rather than a single disorder, though we don’t have a good taxonomy of types. Because TMJ can be so variable, it can also cause many different types of jaw pain. The most commonly experienced forms of jaw pain are:

  • Muscle pain
  • Bone pain
  • Joint pain
  • Nerve pain

If you understand the nature of your pain and its cause, you will better understand how treatment can help.

TMJ-Related Muscle Pain

Most pain caused by TMJ is related to the muscles. When your jaw joint isn’t properly positioned, the muscles can’t find a good rest position. Instead, the muscles are constantly working, sometimes fighting one another to try to find a comfortable position. This can lead to chronic exertion that causes the muscles to be sore and tender. Since the jaw muscles extend from the bottom of the jaw to the sides of the head behind the eye, this muscle pain can affect not just the jaw but the entire head. It also contributes to tension headaches.

Muscle pain might correspond with other TMJ symptoms such as tooth wear and damage related to forceful biting or clenching and neck pain related to partner muscles also becoming strained.

TMJ-Related Bone Pain

As the jaw muscles are constantly pulling and straining, they can cause adverse pressure on the bones. This pressure descends down through the teeth into the jawbone, causing soreness at the base of the teeth. This is often a more dull, throbbing pain that follows episodes of clenching (bruxism), either during the day or at night.

Bone pain can also be related to teeth wear and toothaches caused by TMJ.

TMJ-Related Joint Pain

When the temporomandibular joint isn’t functioning properly, it may experience pain. The jaw joint consists of two bones (the temporal bone and the mandibular bone) separated by a cushioning disc.

In TMJ, the disc is often pulled out of place. When this happens, you’ll notice that your jaw gains an irregular motion. At a certain point as you’re opening your jaw, the disc will slip back into place, disrupting the motion and causing a popping or clicking sound. Over time, the disc will stop slipping back into place, which means the sound stops, but it also means the jaw may start becoming locked.

The cushioning disc is built to withstand the pressures of the joint, but when it’s out of place, the pressure gets put on ligaments that can’t handle the pressure. They hurt and swell. The ligaments are also not adequate to cushion the bones in the jaw joint, so the joints may begin to grind together painfully.

Pinched Nerves Caused by TMJ

There are many nerves that run near the temporomandibular joint or your jaw muscles. When your jaw is out of place, it can put pressure on these nerves. Pinched nerve pain can be erratic, and is often a sharp, electric pain that comes and goes suddenly.

But pinched nerve pain can take other forms. If a nerve is under light pressure, it may cause numbness or tingling. It may even manifest as ringing in your ears or other unusual sensations. Sometimes, pinched nerves can trigger migraines or may be felt as referred pain someplace far from the cause of the pain.

Jaw Pain Relief

No matter what type of jaw pain you’re experiencing related to your TMJ, it can be disruptive. In many cases, we can help reduce or eliminate your jaw pain. In other cases, we may refer you for treatment elsewhere to ensure you get the best care. If you are looking for relief from your jaw pain, please call 940-322-2252 or contact us today for an appointment at StarImage Dentistry in Wichita Falls, TX.