Medical Conditions Linked to TMJ

Medical Conditions Linked to TMJ

Those suffering from TMJ may have more to chew on.   Studies have uncovered links connecting TMJ to a range of chronic health conditions across the body.    The term “TMJ” is short for describing the temporomandibular joint, the joint connecting the jaw to the skull.   TMJ is a common term for describing one or more temporomandibular joint disorders, or TMDs.  TMJ/TMD can include a number of afflictions in the jaw and surrounding muscle tissue.

When the temporomandibular joint becomes misaligned it can cause painful discomfort, clicking or popping sensations when moving the jaw, and may lead to additional medical maladies.

  • Common health conditions linked to TMJ/TMD include:
  • Migraine/Tension Headaches
  • Interrupted Sleep
  • Ear pain (tinnitus)
  • Sinus infections (Sinusitis)
  • Chronic fatigue/pain

The causes of TMJ/TMD vary.  TMJ may be the result of hereditary causes or symptoms may develop over time due to external influences or personal behavior.

Migraine/Tension Headaches

Headaches linked to TMJ can be lengthy and debilitating.  These can include:

  • Migraine headaches. TMJ-induced migraine headaches are often accompanied by nausea/vomiting, sensitivity to light, and/or an aversion to loud noises. Migraines have many potential triggers, with TMJ ranking high among them.  Following a migraine, sufferers are at higher risk for repeat attacks, leading to chronic conditions.
  • Tension headaches. Tension headaches linked to TMJ are often the result compensating for the effects of TMJ. TMJ/TMD can place undue stress on facial muscles.  The muscles fatigues attempting to compensate for misaligned jaw and/or an uneven bite, leading to muscle tension and discomfort.

Interrupted Sleep

The muscles operating the jaw have a lot to manage.  When the jaw is misaligned, the rest of the mouth may have trouble keeping up.  Those with TMJ may have falling asleep due to pain, or difficulty remaining asleep because of trouble breathing.  During sleep, improper jaw alignment can cause the tongue to block the airway.  This can be an uncomfortable way to be jolted awake.

Earaches, Ringing in the Ears (Tinnitus)

People with TMJ/TMD may be more prone to chronic earaches.  The muscles and ligaments connecting the jaw to the skull run in close proximity to the ear canal.  If the jaw becomes misaligned there may be increased pressure on the ear canal or surrounding structure.  Inflammation of the jaw muscles can also place pressure on the ear canal, leading to aches. Research has shown a connection between the nerves in the jaw and ear.  When the jaw is out of alignment, it can place pressure on the nerves causing a ringing sensation in the ears.

Sinus Pain (Sinusitis)

Sinus pain and inflammation is common and may be the result of allergens, a common cold, hereditary causes and more.  Those with TMJ/TMD may want to add misalignment of the jaw to the list.  In cases of improper bite, the muscles in the jaw will often attempt to compensate.  This can lead to muscle fatigue and inflammation placing pressure on the sinuses leading to discomfort.  In some cases, the pain may be difficult to pin as TMJ affects nerves, interfering with the transfer and interpretation of pain signals.

Chronic Fatigue/Chronic Pain

Living with TMJ can be taxing.  Difficulty and pain in opening and closing the mouth can lead to challenges eating, speaking, sleeping and more.  Consistently interrupted sleep due to pain or airway blockage can drain energy levels.  This can lead to difficulties concentrating at work and at home, often causing increased irritability.  The pain associated can grow over time becoming an ever-present reality.  This can and does affect many aspects of daily life for millions of Americans with TMJ/TMD.

In many cases, it can be difficult to make the connection between TMJ and a medical condition.  Headaches, earaches, and sinus pain have many potential causes.  To find out if TMJ is the cause of your aches and pains, contact Dentistry by John Barras for a TMJ evaluation.  Depending on the root cause of your TMJ, Dr. Barras may be able to offer a permanent solution.