TMJ Pain

The condition of “TMJ” refers to disorders in the temporomandibular joint. When this joint is damaged, the pain can be unrelenting and hard to diagnose. Patients who suffer from TMJ often experience intense, dull pain deep in the ear or on the side of the head, the cheek, the lower jaw, and the teeth, which may worsen when they swallow, yawn, talk or chew. For some patients, TMJ results in dull and constant pain.

Common Causes Of TMJ Damage

  • Major and minor trauma to the jaw
  • Teeth grinding
  • Excessive gum chewing or other repetitive movements of the jaw
  • Stress
  • Improper occlusion of the teeth
  • Other arthritis conditions
  • Poor dentition (teeth in poor health)

Symptoms Of TMJ

Ear pain is often the first symptom of TMJ. It is not uncommon for patients with TMJ to think that they have an ear infection. The ENT physicians at CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat can perform a physical examination to determine the exact cause of the ear pain. When the eardrum looks normal, our doctors then consider the possibility that the pain comes from TMJ or other conditions. Unfortunately, due to its proximity to the temporomandibular joint, the eardrum may become inflamed, suggesting to a doctor the presence of infection. If you suffer from the following symptoms and other treatments such as antibiotics have not helped, see an otolaryngologist for an evaluation:

  • Ear pain
  • Sore jaw muscles
  • Temple/cheek pain
  • Jaw popping/clicking
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Difficulty in opening the mouth fully
  • Frequent headaches/neck aches

Treatment Of TMJ Pain

The otolaryngologists (ENT doctors) at CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat are uniquely qualified to diagnose TMJ problems. If TMJ problems are diagnosed early, patients often respond to simple self-remedies such as resting the muscles and joints by eating soft food, avoiding chewing gum, avoiding clenching the teeth and tensing facial muscles and relaxing muscles with moist heat. If these initial treatments prove ineffective or if the condition is more severe, other treatment options may be needed, including:

  • Relaxation techniques and stress reduction
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Muscle relaxants
  • An occlusal splint (to prevent wear and tear on the joint)
  • Surgery
  • Inserts in the ear to provide back pressure to the joint