Jaw pain caused by problems with the TMJ (Temporomandibular joint) is sometimes one of the most excruciatingly painful experiences. But it happens to many people. More than 10 million people tend to experience some or other form of jaw-related pain in America, according to Healthline. Whether TMJ and jaw pain are related, carry on reading to learn more. 

What Exactly Is TMJ?

TMJ is the name given to the condition or dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint on each side of the jaw. One cannot imagine how a small joint like the TMJ can result in such severe pain, but it does. The dysfunction of this joint causes various levels of pain and discomfort and may even result in the jaw “popping out” or “locking.” One person’s TMJ experience and pain level may differ from the next. 

Symptoms Of TMJ

The following are some of the TMJ symptoms people have found were common among TMJ sufferers:

Pain when the jaw moves

For some people, pain in the jaw can occur while eating, yawning, or talking. When suffering from TMJ dysfunction, the jaw is sensitive and can become aggravated, thus causing more pain. 

Clicks and pops

The clicking and popping might be the joint dislocating from or relocating into its place. This is very difficult for anyone who experiences TMJ, as sometimes the joint has to be reset.

Tired and sore facial muscles

We have tones of muscles aiding every move, including the muscles in our faces. Having a TMJ condition puts the temporomandibular muscles under severe strain, which can result in the locking of the jaw. Unless it is treated, the person may experience frequent discomfort and even damage to their teeth, gums, jaw, and tissue and joints in the mouth.

Ailments of pain 

Furthermore, people who experience TMJ are often exposed to frequent headaches and neck and shoulder pain. 

Problematic chewing 

Since the jaw must move while we eat, having TMJ causes chewing food to be painful and challenging to accomplish due to teeth and jaw misalignment. 

Swelling of the face

Sometimes the face is subject to swelling when someone suffers from TMJ due to the inflammation building up in the joint regions.

Sometimes TMJ can lead to other symptoms that may not seem related to the pain in the jaw, but instead, it can cause dizziness, hearing issues, and even ringing within the ears. 

Does All Jaw Pain Mean TMJ Dysfunction?

Not all, jaw pain is related to TMJ depending on what is causing the jaw to pain. Still, it is a common misconception that jaw pain is automatically a result of TMJ. To find out if it is TMJ, a dentist will do X-rays and scan the mouth to see if the jaw and teeth are affected by TMJ.

There are also CT (Computed Tomography) scans to determine the bones or skeletal make up of the skull involved and causing pain. A doctor may also suggest an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan to have a closer look at the tissue surrounding the joint and how it might be affected.

What Else Causes Jaw Pain If Not TMJ?

Other factors that may be affecting a person’s jaw causing pain if TMJ is ruled out may include but are not limited to the following:

·        It’s hereditary – If jaw pain is something that is experienced in the family, the chances are that it can be passed down and be a result of genetics.

·        Bruxism – Bruxism is the condition of involuntarily clenching or grinding one’s jaws or teeth. While this can sometimes lead to TMJ, it is not always the cause of TMJ, but it can lead to jaw pain.

·        Trauma or injury to the jaw – A previously suffered jaw injury can cause jaw pain due to the damage caused.

·        Arthritis – Some forms of arthritis can also affect the jawbone and cause pain.

·        Heart attack – Jaw pain can also be linked to a possible heart attack as the pain from the heart can sometimes radiate to the face affecting the jaw.

Treatment and Management of TMJ and Jaw Pain

Some treatment options for TMJ and jaw pain, when not related, may include, but are not limited to: 

  • Eating soft food reduces pressure on the jaw. 
  • Using ice packs to reduce swelling and pain. 
  • Taking prescribed medication. 
  • Taking over-the-counter (OTC) medication. 
  • Limiting excessive mouth movements. 
  • Sleeping with a night guard or bite plate (for teeth grinding)


Surgeries for TMJ

Arthroscopic surgery

Arthroscopic TMJ surgery is a minimally invasive surgery that involves realigning tissue around the joint and jawbone and the removal of inflamed tissue. Recovery time is estimated at one to two weeks, but this time can vary in individual patients. 


Arthrocentesis TMJ surgery involves injecting the joint with medications and flushing out any scar tissue caused. This surgery is nearly completely non-invasive, as the surgeon only uses needles to work in the area. The patient can recover within two days. 

The Takeaway

You may be experiencing some or even all these symptoms at different times, causing problems and disrupting your daily activities. Speak to your dentist about anything that could be linked to the pain in your jaw. Even if you don’t suspect you might have TMJ, get medical assistance and treatment as soon as possible to rule out all possibilities.