One of the things that make temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ) difficult to diagnose is that they have so many symptoms. These symptoms overlap with other common conditions, leading to misdiagnosis. They can also be hard to link together, so many people in Warren and Detroit might not realize that the symptoms they’re suffering from might be linked to a single condition.

The Warren TMJ dentists at the Michigan Head & Neck Institute want to help people get treatment for TMJ before it requires invasive surgical treatment. If you experience these symptoms, you should get tested for TMJ.

Jaw and Facial Pain

Jaw pain is one of the most commonly reported symptoms of TMJ. There are several different types of TMJ, and they can cause several different types of jaw pain.

woman holding jaw in pain

The most common type of TMJ-related jaw pain is muscle pain. In TMJ, your jaw often can’t find a comfortable resting position for your muscles, which keeps them straining until they experience soreness and pain. Since jaw muscles underlie much of your face, this often feels like facial pain.

TMJ can also cause jaw pain in the jaw joint. Without healthy, balanced function, TMJ can cause painful degeneration of the jaw joints. Sometimes, too, in TMJ, your jaw pinches or rubs against a nerve, leading to a sharp, stabbing pain or even tingling or numbness in your face.

Neck Pain

Neck pain is almost as common in TMJ as jaw pain. That’s because the neck muscles work together with the jaw muscles to help support the head. When the jaw muscles can’t work effectively, the neck muscles have to bear more of the burden. This causes them to get tense and sore.


TMJ headaches are very common. TMJ headaches can be tension headaches due to tension in the jaw muscles. Some of the jaw muscles extend up to your temples, just behind your eyes. They might be causing your headaches directly or by spreading tension to partner muscles.

TMJ can also trigger migraines. Many migraines trigger from the trigeminal nerve, which controls your jaw muscles. Tension and pain in the jaw muscles can set off a chain reaction leading to migraines. Jaw muscles can also put pressure on parts of the trigeminal nerve, causing migraines that way.

Irregular Jaw Motion and Sound

One common form of TMJ is disc displacement (DD). In this type, the cushioning disc between your skull and jaw slips out of place, causing irregular jaw motion. The jaw may suddenly jump as the disc moves in and out of place. You might also hear a popping or clicking sound when this happens.

As your jaw joints degrade, this motion and sound may change.

Limited Jaw Motion and Locked Jaw

As the jaw becomes more damaged, you might experience limited jaw movement. This could be related to joint damage or to the pain in your jaw muscles.

The cushioning disc might stop moving in and out of place, causing your jaw to suddenly lock in place.

If your jaw motion is limited or if your jaw locks in place, don’t try to force it with your hands since that could lead to more serious jaw damage. Seek help from a Detroit TMJ dentist to safely restore jaw motion.

Ear Pain and Ear Fullness

Ear pain is commonly linked to TMJ because the ear is closely connected to your temporomandibular joint. In fact, about three-quarters of people with TMJ experience some type of ear symptom. The middle and inner ear are housed in the temporal bone, and pressure on this bone might irritate your ears. There are many connections between the jaw itself and the tiny muscles and bones of your ear, so when jaw muscles get sore, ear muscles might, too. Plus, jaw motion can affect the important eustachian tubes, which help regulate pressure in your ears. When TMJ affects the function of your jaw, it might reduce the free flow of air, leading to pain or fullness in the ears.

Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ears)

Connections between the jaw and the ear mean that jaw dysfunction can also cause ringing in your ears. This might sound like a high-pitched tone, a bell, or a roaring. For most people with TMJ-related tinnitus, the sound changes in character or volume as you move your jaw. If your tinnitus responds to jaw motion, seek help from a Detroit TMJ dentist, especially if you have other symptoms on this list.

Vertigo and Dizziness

People experience vertigo and dizziness when the different mechanisms the body uses for balance don’t agree with one another. One of these mechanisms is in your inner ear, and TMJ can interfere with it. This creates a disparity between the different balance mechanisms, and that causes vertigo and dizziness. We’re not entirely sure how TMJ causes this interference, but we know that perhaps half of all people with TMJ also experience vertigo and/or dizziness.

man with toothpain holding his face

Toothaches and Tooth Wear

There are many ways that TMJ can contribute to toothaches and tooth wear. Your jaw will often clench and grind as your muscles seek a comfortable position. This puts excessive pressure and friction on your teeth, which makes them hurt and can wear them down.

In addition, irregular jaw movements can make your jaw jump suddenly when you’re chewing, causing your teeth to hit together much harder than is healthy, leading to chips and cracks.

Trouble Swallowing

We swallow hundreds of times a day, mostly automatically, without thinking. It’s easy to neglect that swallowing is a complex process involving numerous different muscle groups working together. When TMJ disrupts your jaw system, you might have difficulty swallowing.

Relief from TMJ symptoms in Detroit

If you’re in the Detroit area and experience any of the TMJ symptoms above, you should consider seeking the help of a Detroit TMJ dentist today. Please call (586) 999-8875 or use our online form to contact the Michigan Head & Neck Institute, serving the entire Detroit area from our dental office in Warren, MI.