TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. Everyone has 2 TMJs, located on each side of the face just in front of the ears. TMJ is a hinge joint to help open or close the jaw. While everyone has 2 TMJs, only 5% – 12% of the US adults has TMJ disorders (TMD). TMJ pain is the second most musculoskeletal pain after lower back pain. A TMJ disorder is when you feel pain or problem in your TMJ. However, there are many other conditions that cause symptoms that can be mistaken as TMJ symptoms. Dr. Khalifeh will explain how to know if you have TMJ disorder or something else.
What are the Symptoms of TMJ Disorder?
TMD is usually presented with a wide range of symptoms. In addition to pain in the TMJ and related muscles. However, TMJ disorder may be associated with one or more of the following symptoms:
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Back pain
- Limited mouth opening
- Limited neck movement
- Clicking or crepitus sound when you move the jaw or open the mouth
- Cracks, chips, and wear of the teeth
- Ear pain
- Ringing ear sound (Tinnitus)
- Hearing issues and feeling pressure or fullness in the ears
- Loss of balance
- In rare occasions, tingling sensation in the fingers
In conclusion, if you have TMJ pain and any of these symptoms, you are more likely suffering from a TMJ disorder. However, pain might be the only symptom of TMJ disorder, but you might have something else other than TMJ disorder.
Which Conditions May Be Mistaken for TMJ Disorder?
The TMJ is related to many structures. Therefore, several conditions may be mistaken for TMJ disorder. These conditions include:
Ear pain can be felt as a TMJ pain. On the other hand, TMJ disorder pain could be mistaken for ear pain. This condition is called referred pain. Therefore, patients with TMD often consult with their ear-nose and throat specialist (ENT) first because they feel pain in the ear. When the ENT specialist find nothing wrong with the ear, he / she usually refers you to a TMJ specialist for evaluation and treatment.
TMD can cause headache mostly in the temple area. In general, TMJ disorder headache in more common during the morning time although it might occur at any time of the day. Primary tension headache might feel exactly like TMD headache. However, treating the TMJ disorder will take care of the TMD headache but not the primary tension headache.
In addition, other forms of headaches such as cluster headache, sinus headache and migraine may be mistaken for TMJ disorder.
Sinus infection can also produce symptoms like TMJ disorder. Sinus infection can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungus. However, chronic sinusitis might be caused by allergy to dust, pollens, and other things. Treating the sinus problems usually relief your symptoms.
The trigeminal nerve is the fifth cranial nerve. It has 3 branches that gives sensory supply to most parts of the face, mouth, teeth, gums, tongue, TMJ, part of the ear, nose, sinuses, eyes, and the meninges. The trigeminal nerve also supplies motor fibers to all the chewing muscles.
The trigeminal neuralgia is a nerve disease that can causes sharp pain in the face, teeth, and the TMJ area. Trigeminal neuralgia pain feels like electric shock that last only for few seconds. However, this type of pain may be stimulated by touching an area in the face called the trigger zone. TMD pain usually last for long time and doesn’t feel like an electric shock.
An abscessed tooth or gum infection may cause pain that refers to the ear and the TMJ. However, a good clinical exam of the teeth and gums will show the source of pain.
Other Causes of Facial Pain that Can be Mistaken With TMJ Disorders
viral infections like shingles, facial trauma and cervical spines injuries and disease. However, only an experienced TMJ specialist knows if you have TMJ disorder or something else.
How to diagnose TMJ Disorder?
Diagnosing TMJ disorders can be hectic unless it is done by an experienced TMJ specialist. However, it is very important to differentiate between TMD and other problems that give similar symptoms to TMJ disorders. To get correct diagnosis for your TMJ disorder, Dr. Khalifeh, a top TMJ specialist in Los Angeles, will review your medical and TMJ pain history first. He will perform a detailed clinical examination of your oral, head and neck areas. He might ask for a panoramic x-ray that shows your TMJ. Additionally, Dr. Khalifeh might order a 3D cone beam CT or MRI of the TMJ if he feels they are needed.
In conclusion, the goal is to find the source of your problem and plane the best treatment to your condition. A good exam will help the doctor know if you have TMJ disorder or something else.
Schedule an Appointment with Los Angeles TMJ Specialist, Dr. Khalifeh
Dr. Mohammad Khalifeh, DDS, MS. Is board-certified Orofacial Pain and TMJ specialist. He is a Diplomate American Board of Orofacial Pain. Above all, Dr. Khalifeh is TMD and Orofacial Pain Board Certified doctor. Additionally, for over 26 years, Dr. Khalifeh is helping patients with TMJ and jaw pain in Los Angeles, Miracle Mile, Park La Brea, Beverly Hills, Larchmont Village, Hollywood, Santa Monica, California, and the rest of the word.
Our address: SAG-AFTRA Plaza, 5757 Wilshire Blvd., Suite #5, Los Angeles, CA 90036