TMJ Jaw Pain Symptoms

TMJ Jaw Pain Symptoms

Because TMJ is a dysfunction of the jaw joint, jaw pain is a very common symptom. A bad bite in which your upper and lower teeth do not come together in proper alignment also disrupts the placement of the jaw and the surrounding muscles.

This imbalance in the bite-jaw-muscle relationship is what causes the pain in the jaw. Pressure and forces on the teeth can cause bone to dissolve or extra boney projections to be built up.  This article will help you to learn more about tmj jaw pain symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatments and will provide guidance on finding a medical professional that can help you find relief.


Jaw pain is one of the most classic and defining TMD symptoms, or temporomandibular joint disorder If you suffer from TMD, you definitely know the anxiety and fear of sometimes overwhelming life changing jaw pain. Leading Dentists goal is to help you understand and navigate through the causes, characteristics and treatment of jaw pain through trustworthy research-based  information and effective help.  It is important to seek the help of a trained TMJ dentist in order to take a more active approach towards solving the underlying problem and finding solutions instead of treating symptoms and living in agony.

Causes of TMD Jaw Pain

What causes TMJ pain? There are a number of causes and frequently patients have a combination of these rather than a single cause:

  • Trauma, for example a blow to the jaw either directly to the joint or elsewhere on the jaw remove
  • Over activity of the jaw muscles. This can occur from continuous clenching or grinding the teeth
  • Wear and tear of the cartilage inside in the joint
  • Arthritis – degenerative joint changes are associated with greater pain
  • Increased sensitivity to pain linked to stress
  • Misalignment of the jaw 
  • Read more about what causes of TMD

Diagnosing Jaw Pain Due to a TMJ Disorder.

If you are suffering from jaw pain it does not necessarily mean the there is a temporomandibular disorder involved.  However it is a very common cause of the pain.  The following are characteristics of jaw pain that are most commonly associated with a jaw joint disorder.

  • The defining feature of the TMD pain is that it gets aggravated by all functions like clenching, grinding, eating, yawning. Chewing of hard or tough food is very painful.
  • Upon waking, it is usually the worst because of Nocturnal Bruxism (grinding of teeth while asleep)
  • It may be accompanied by other TMD symptoms.  Crepitus or clicking or popping, limited jaw movement, migraines and lock jaw are all common symptoms that will accompany jaw pain
  • The pain can vary from a dull ache to an occasionally severe pain
  • It can be continuous or intermittent during “flare ups”
  • Usually the pain is localized to one side and not bilateral. It is rare that pain is bilateral meaning equal in both sides of the jaw
  • Learn how neuromuscular dentists diagnose TMD


TMJ Jaw Pain Treatment

There are many treatment suggestions for TMD jaw pain depending on your specific causes and symptoms. In the end the goal is to restore proper function to the system which requires that you consult with a dentist who is trained in assessing and treating the issue with proper technology and understands effective treatment methods. A neuromuscular TMJ dentist and his team will do thorough exams that involve:

  • A dental exam to show if you have poor bite alignment
  • Feeling the joint and muscles for tenderness
  • Pressing around the head to locate areas that are sensitive or painful
  • Sliding the teeth from side to side
  • Watching, feeling, and listening to the jaw open and shut
  • X-rays or MRI of the jaw.

Sometimes, the results of the physical exam may appear normal and other conditions, such as infections, ear infections, or nerve-related problems and headaches may need to be considered.

If the condition is acute, the TMJ dentist will give you guidelines for following treatment:


Medications For TMJ Jaw Pain

Many times a prescription will mask the pain or offer temporary relief of some symptoms, however it may be brought up.  Neuromuscular dentistry calls for treatments that affect the root cause while other practitioners may be more apt to recommend the following:


  • A medical practitioners may recommend or prescribe pain medication or Ibuprofen to help relieve the pain associated with TMD.  This is not a long term solution and may have negative side effects that you should discuss with your dentist or doctor.
  • If these aren’t enough to control the pain, your doctor may prescribe stronger medication such as a muscle relaxant or antidepressant
  • Steroid Treatment. If TMD is caused by a disease such as arthritis, a steroid injection into the jaw joint can help reduce pain and swelling in a joint or the surrounding soft tissue. Most people report feeling less pain within the first 24 hours to one week. You may find your pain improves for a period of a few weeks to several months and, in some cases, the injection resolves the pain completely


Temporary TMD Relief

    • Eat a soft diet and use both sides of the mouth at the same time or alternate sides
    • Chew with your back teeth rather than biting with your front teeth
    • Avoid activities that involve wide opening of the jaw, such as yawning or prolonged dental treatments, until the pain has reduced
    • Apply moist heat or cold (whichever feels better) on your cheek over the jaw area. Try a warm, damp towel or wrap ice in a thin face towel and apply for no more than five minutes at a time
    • Keep your tongue up in the roof of your mouth and your teeth apart. This helps keep your jaw muscles in a relaxed position
    • Learn and practice relaxation including abdominal breathing and Yoga as this may help during times of increased pain
    • Get a good night’s sleep
    • You can try  home remedies
    • It is wise to steer clear of any foods that need a large amount of chewing
    • Avoid saturated fats and fried foods, they tend to increase inflammation
    • Try eating 4-5 small meals throughout the day instead of 3 large meals
    • Add foods that will reduce inflammation such HEALTHY OILS (olive oil, grape seed oil, or walnut oil), SOY PROTEINS (soybeans, tofu, and soy milk ), Blueberries and strawberries .
    • Avoid foods that require opening the jaw wide to bite such as hamburgers, large sandwiches and apples
    • Keep well hydrated
    • Don’t forget to drink your orange juice, it is packed with Vitamin C and helps in repairing connective tissues as well as acting as an anti-inflammatory


Preventing TMJ Jaw Pain

  • Lighten the load on your jaw
  • Correct your posture as you stand, sit, and sleep
  • Breathe and swallow properly
  • Soothe head and neck pain
  • Reduce daily stress
  • Exercise for 45 minutes a day


Surgery is the last resort to be considered in severe cases and only after all of the above efforts have been attempted.  Complete management of TMD jaw pain is possible with the help and advice of a properly trained TMJ dentist. At times it is easy to resolve jaw pain completely under proper guidance.



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