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Can TMJ Cause Teeth to Hurt?

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Can TMJ Cause Teeth to Hurt?

If you have ever noticed pain near the joint of your jaw, especially when chewing or speaking, it was likely temporomandibular joint disorder—more commonly called TMJ. 

It may feel like you have a cracked tooth harming the area or a pulsing pain. Visiting a dentist to discuss treatment options can help, but in the meantime, you may be wondering: can TMJ cause teeth to hurt?

TMJ disorder is often associated with misalignment or inflammation in the jaw. This can cause your teeth to rest unnaturally against one another, or irritate surrounding tissues—like those in the base of the teeth. Because of this, TMJ often causes tooth pain, alongside many other irritating symptoms.

What Is TMJ?

Your jaw connects to your body through a hinge-like joint located on each side of your head just near the ears. This is the temporomandibular joint.

The temporomandibular joint acts as a sort of sliding hinge, just like on a door or a box. This connects the jaw to the skull while enabling you to speak, chew, yawn, and in general use your mouth. However, this joint is also one of the most complex in the body—it needs to allow you to perform a range of movements without causing problems or impacting your ability to eat, speak, and function.

Sometimes, this joint can become inflamed due to a variety of potential problems. This often leads to a pulsing or pounding pain radiating in your lower jaw and the surrounding area. When this happens, it is referred to as TMJ disorder, or more casually TMJ.

What Causes TMJ?

Where your jaw connects plays an important role in your overall quality of life—much more than you may think. It aligns your teeth together so they can function, allowing you to bite and chew easily.

But what happens if your jaw is slightly misaligned or inflamed somehow? That would lead to it being unable to properly close and would interfere with chewing, speaking, and even resting. What causes this disorder?

TMJ can occur due to several problems, including, but not limited to:

  • Stress
  • Bruxism, a common condition where you subconsciously grind your teeth
  • Injury or trauma, such as a direct blow to the jaw area
  • Arthritis, where pain begins to develop in once-healthy joints
  • An overall misalignment of your teeth or jaw, such as the teeth not fitting together properly

These problems can cause radiating symptoms near the jaw, and lead to the pain often associated with TMJ.

Signs & Symptoms of TMJ

It is important to note that TMJ symptoms can vary and that this condition can affect people differently depending on the degree they are experiencing the condition. However, some common signs and symptoms of TMJ can include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw
  • Aching facial pain
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Aching or pain around the ears
  • Locking of the jaw in an open or closed position

You may notice a clicking sound when you open your mouth too far, or some resistance when trying to chew or speak. If these symptoms sound familiar, you may have had TMJ.

TMJ & Tooth Pain

There is one unique aspect to TMJ that may not at first appear related—this condition can often cause pain in the teeth. What causes this?

When the jaw is misaligned, the teeth do not naturally fit together as they should. This leads to unnecessary stress and pressure on the teeth and pushes at angles the teeth did not grow to accommodate. 

Eventually, this alignment process starts to cause inflammation and wear on the teeth, resulting in constant or intermittent tooth pain. This can expose the sensitive parts of the teeth as more and more of the enamel erodes, leading to significant sensitivity and pain in certain teeth.

This can be made worse by bruxism, one of the common causes of TMJ. With bruxism, the jaw is misaligned due to the grinding of the teeth. TMJ can make teeth grinding worse and can cause further damage. 

If you have noticed you grind your teeth, consider speaking with a dentist to discuss the possibility of a mouthguard to help protect your teeth from the wear and tear caused by bruxism.

How to Fix TMJ Pain

If you constantly experience TMJ pain, taking active measures to prevent this condition from further damaging your teeth is crucial. It can help to:

  • Reduce your stress where possible, or practice stress reduction techniques. Consider meditation, yoga, or any other form of relaxation to prevent teeth grinding and overall stress.
  • Consider physical therapy. You may be able to discover exercises to strengthen the muscles around the jaw, which can improve alignment and reduce pain.
  • Use a mouthguard if you often grind your teeth to reduce damage to your teeth, jaw, and muscles.
  • Use hot or cold packs as necessary to alleviate pain, fight inflammation, and find relief.

If your symptoms persist, reach out to a dentist. They can provide specialized treatment tailored to your specific situation, which may help you find relief from your TMJ pain.

When to Visit a Dentist About TMJ Pain

If you constantly notice pain in your jaw or are experiencing any other dental problem, come visit our team at Dentistry on Danforth. We can provide you with a diagnosis and appropriate treatment to help you find relief. You do not deserve to suffer in silence, so request an appointment with our team today.

Written by Dr. Kostas Papadopoulos

Dr. Kostas Papadopoulos received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Toronto in 1992 after completing 3 years of biochemistry and the 4-year program in dentistry. He enjoys continuing education and has attended numerous rehabilitative and cosmetic dentistry programs, including courses taught by Dr. John Kois.

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