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What does a tmj headache feel like: What Do TMJ Headaches Feel Like?

What Do TMJ Headaches Feel Like?

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Experiencing TMJ Headaches? Visit Koala® Center For Sleep & TMJ Disorders if you need help with your TMJ Headaches. For more information, please call us or schedule an appointment online.  

Table of Contents:

Can headaches be a symptom of a TMJ disorder?
So what do TMJ headaches feel like?
How do you treat TMJ headaches?

Symptoms like jaw pain, aching facial pain, and frequent headaches may be indicative of a jaw joint (TMJ) disorder. The headaches in particular can be pretty difficult to deal with regularly, let alone when you’re trying to sleep. However, we can provide relief here at Koala® Center For Sleep & TMJ Disorders, so if you’ve been suffering from headaches and other symptoms of a TMJ disorder, read on and reach out to us today!

Can headaches be a symptom of a TMJ disorder?

They definitely can be, yes. Headaches are really common in people, but most people don’t know how commonly headaches are caused by a TMJ disorder. In fact, over 35 million Americans have a TMJ disorder, but so many of them attribute their symptoms to a busy, stressful life, so they never learn that they have a TMJ disorder.

If you have headaches regularly, then pay attention to your other symptoms too, as they may hint at a TMJ disorder. Some of the other common symptoms of a TMJ disorder can be:

– Problems with talking and chewing
– Pain, popping, and/or clicking in the jaw
– Pain, ringing, or congestion in the ears
– Pain behind the eyes
– Locking of the jaw joint
– Sensitivity in the teeth to heat or cold
– Pain in and around the face
– Difficulty swallowing or sore throat
– Lacking mobility or having stiffness in the neck

If you have some of the problems above, you may want to see a professional and ask about whether you may have a TMJ disorder.

So what do TMJ headaches feel like?

One of the main symptoms of a TMJ disorder is headaches that tend to be frequent. These headaches may feel like any other headache or like a tension headache, but they tend to occur and recur in one or more regions of the head and/or face. You may also feel facial tightness/pain, or jaw tightness/pain/clicking. You might also experience a change in your bite. If any of that describes the headaches you’ve been having, then you really should see a professional about it.

How do you treat TMJ headaches?

Some lifestyle changes can help in some minor cases, but because the underlying issue is an actual disorder, it’s often necessary to seek professional treatment. Here at Koala® Center For Sleep & TMJ Disorders, we can teach you TMJ massages, stretches, and other exercises that relieve TMJ tension and stress. In doing so, symptoms are relieved significantly and everyday pain can be relieved too. However, these exercises may not be adequate in relieving your symptoms, so another method of treatment may be necessary.

At Koala® Center For Sleep & TMJ Disorders, we use oral appliance therapy which can be especially effective at treating TMJ disorders and thus relieving symptoms like TMJ headaches. Oral appliance therapy is actually proven to treat TMJ disorders, and quite often patients will get immediate relief. In fact, our patients experience an average of a 50% improvement of jaw pain and headaches within the first week of treatment, and within three months, they’re 90% symptom-free!

We’d be very happy to tell you more about oral appliance therapy and our exercises for treating TMJ disorder and TMJ headaches. If you’d like to learn more, give us a call today at (855) 977-0400. If you like, we can get you in for a consultation at one of our clinics in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Texas or Wisconsin. You can visit our Locations page for the location nearest you. We look forward to speaking with or seeing you soon here at Koala® Center For Sleep & TMJ Disorders!

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8 Symptoms of TMJ Not to Ignore

Anyone who’s suffered from TMJ pain knows how debilitating it can be. While it may start with a little soreness at the temples or popping when you yawn, it can quickly progress into daily migraines, difficulty eating, and permanent damage to the teeth. If you suspect you may have TMJ disorder, here are 8 symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored.

What Is TMJ Disorder?

Although people often refer to TMJ disorder as TMJ, this abbreviation is for the joint that causes the pain—the temporomandibular joint. When this joint is causing pain or not functioning properly, the condition is known as TMJ disorder, also known as TMD or TMJD.

It’s believed that around 10 million Americans suffer from TMJ pain. Although the joint in question is quite small, it can cause a tremendous amount of pain. The TMJ acts as a sliding hinge that connects the jaw to the skull. Think about how many times a day you eat, open your mouth, speak, yawn—when your TMJ is dysfunctional, each of those movements can cause the joint to become aggravated and painful.

Common Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

There are some symptoms of TMJ disorder that are unmistakable. Clicking and popping in the jaw, for example, are very rarely anything other than TMJ disorder. Other signs of the disorder are easy to confuse with different health issues. Headaches can be misdiagnosed as migraines; earaches are usually thought to originate in the ear canal, not a joint located near it. To diagnose TMJ disorder, we take a step back and look at all of your symptoms to piece together the puzzle. Here are signs that you could have TMD:


Headaches from TMJ disorder may come and go or they may be chronic as the disorder progresses and worsens over time. These headaches usually feel as if they’re originating behind the eyes and because of this, they’re often misdiagnosed as migraines.


The temporomandibular joint is located just above the ear, so when it becomes inflamed, it can cause earaches. If you suffer from frequent earaches without any other symptoms, it’s possible that the cause could be TMJ disorder and not an infection in your ears. When the TMJ is acting up, you may also have a feeling of fullness in the ears and even dizziness since the body’s sense of balance comes from the inner ear.

Clicking and Popping Sounds

When you yawn, do you hear or feel your jaw pop? If you’re eating chewy food like crusty bread or caramel candy, does your jaw make clicking sounds? Do you feel like you need to “adjust” your jaw sometimes by popping it? These are all signs that you could have TMJ disorder. Like any other joint in the body, the temporomandibular joint should not make sounds when it’s in use. Noises from this joint are a clear sign that something is wrong.

Locked Jaw

If your jaw gets locked in the open or closed position, this too is another sign that the temporomandibular joint is not functioning properly. It’s important to get prompt treatment if you experience this symptom often.

Jaw Pain

TMJ-related jaw pain can be felt at the temples and it may extend all the way down to the sides of the upper jaw and beyond. Sometimes instead of pain, patients experience a feeling of discomfort, often described as feeling as if their jaw is out of alignment.

Facial Pain

When the temporomandibular joint is particularly inflamed, it can even cause pain elsewhere in the face—the cheeks, under the eyes, even the forehead. TMJ pain can be like a vicious circle: muscle tension can cause TMJ pain, then TMJ pain can also cause even more muscle tension, which is felt elsewhere in the face.

Shoulder and Neck Pain

It’s not uncommon for patients with TMJ disorder to experience pain in the neck and shoulders too. Like facial pain, this is also related to the muscle tension that leads to and is caused by TMJ disorder. Poor posture can cause TMJ pain, but poor posture can also be a reaction to TMJ pain.

Changes to Teeth

Teeth grinding and jaw clenching are both causes of TMJ pain. If you notice that your teeth look worn down or have chips or cracks you don’t remember getting from an injury, it could be a sign that you also have TMJ disorder. Patients may also feel that their upper and lower teeth no longer fit together properly—this can indicate that the temporomandibular joint dysfunction is so severe that the jaw is no longer aligned as it should be.

Causes to TMJ Disorder

In order to effectively treat TMJ disorder, it’s important for us to determine the underlying cause whenever possible. While treating the symptoms can bring temporary relief, it’s only by treating the cause of TMJ disorder that we can come up with a lasting solution. Reasons for TMJ pain include:

  • Facial trauma or other injury to the temporomandibular joint
  • Arthritis
  • Congenital birth defects or other structural problems with the jaw
  • Teeth grinding and jaw clenching (often as a reaction to stress)
  • Erosion of the joint
  • Orthodontic treatment
  • Poor posture

At your first appointment for TMJ pain, we’ll discuss the symptoms you’re experiencing and conduct a thorough exam that includes feeling the temporomandibular joint while you open and close your mouth, checking for tenderness and swelling surrounding the joint, and examining the teeth for signs of wear due to teeth grinding. If we suspect that there is physical damage to the joint itself, you may also need x-rays or even a CT scan or MRI.

Stress is an important factor in TMJ pain. You might not even realize it, but stress and anxiety can cause dramatic physiological changes in the body. Your jaw may be clenched as you sit at the computer working, or you might be one of the many people who grinds their teeth at night and has no knowledge of it. Stress can cause muscle tension throughout the body, including the muscles surrounding the temporomandibular joint. While it’s not a direct cause of TMJ pain, it’s certainly a complicating factor and it causes many physical conditions that lead to TMJ dysfunction.

Sometimes, an underlying cause for TMJ disorder cannot be diagnosed; this doesn’t mean that treatment isn’t possible, but it may take a little more trial-and-error. This is why it’s important to find a TMJ treatment provider that takes the time to listen to your symptoms and come up with a personalized treatment plan just for you.

TMJ Disorder Treatment in NYC

There are several possible treatment options for TMJ pain. The simplest step to start with is self-care at home, particularly if your TMJ pain is not chronic. Treat your jaw pain with hot or cold therapy—or a combination of both—using compresses. Cold therapy using an ice pack works best, but some patients with muscle tension find relief from warm compresses. When your TMJ feels aggravated, switch to a soft foods diet and avoid gum and foods that require a lot of chewing. There are even exercises you can do to relax your jaw if muscle tension due to jaw clenching is causing your TMJ pain.

For patients who have arthritis, it may be necessary to loop in a rheumatologist so we can treat the pain you’re experiencing and also the underlying cause of it. Some patients with arthritis, erosion of the joint, or a traumatic injury need to have the temporomandibular joint replaced in order to get permanent relief.

The most common treatment for TMJ pain are splints that help reposition the jaw while you sleep. Sometimes known as night guards, these splints are very effective, particularly for patients who clench their jaws and grind their teeth at night. Another non-invasive treatment for TMJ disorder is physical therapy. Often, we recommend both of these treatment options, along with self-managed care at home.

Because one of the underlying factors at play with TMJ pain is stress, it’s important to manage your anxiety levels as well. Consider yoga, meditation, and incorporating more relaxing self-care activities into your day. 

Ultimately, because TMJ disorder has so many potential causes, there’s rarely a one-size-fits-all solution to TMJ pain. When you get TMJ disorder treatment from Smiles on the Upper Westside, you’ll always get a personalized approach based on your unique situation and needs. We work closely with other medical professionals and therapists when needed, taking a holistic approach that yields better results than those of practitioners who use the same treatment protocol for every patient they see with TMJ pain.

Schedule an Appointment at Smiles on the Upper Westside

Do you have TMJ pain? Are you experiencing any of the symptoms above and think it could be TMJ disorder? Let’s work together to figure out the underlying cause of your TMJ pain and develop a personalized treatment plan that has you back to feeling like your old self again. Contact us today at 212-222-5225 to schedule an appointment for a consultation with Dr. Massiah.

Diseases of the temporomandibular joint / Lipetsk city dental clinic №1

General description

The temporomandibular joint is located directly in front of the ear. It consists of the lower jaw and temporal bone. In this area, a variety of diseases sometimes appear. The lower jaw is connected to the skull with the help of muscles. This allows us to chew, open our mouths, etc. In this case, the movements occur synchronously on both sides. In the event of various diseases, disorders of the joint, its muscles and nerves are determined. Symptoms of such ailments can be different. Often there is pain. The mouth can only open partially. In some cases, it becomes difficult to speak, eat. A number of diseases cause the jaw to move when the mouth is opened. Diseases of the temporomandibular joint, the symptoms of which are varied, can be manifested by a crunch. Sometimes there are headaches, tooth sensitivity. Various factors can cause such discomfort. Most often these include trauma, infection, stress. Strong emotional stress leads to the fact that the muscles are in constant tension. This results in tight clenching of the jaw. This is especially noticeable at night, when a person in a dream begins to grind his teeth (bruxism). Stress leads to pain in the facial muscles, in the neck. Teeth become sensitive. Their enamel is wearing off. Headaches can also be a common symptom. Incorrect bite can also cause diseases of the jaw joints. This situation occurs when teeth are removed. The bite height in this case is reduced. In addition to these factors, excessive physical exertion, weightlifting, overvoltage can lead to the appearance of various ailments. Wrong lifestyle, bad habits and improper diet only exacerbate the situation. TMJ diseases are within the competence of the orthopedic dentist.


One of the most common diseases of this type is arthritis of the temporomandibular joint. This pathology often occurs after an injury. Allergies can also trigger the development of arthritis. A common cause of the disease is the presence in the body of a general or local infection in the TMJ area. As a result of these pathologies, an inflammatory process may develop. This is arthritis. This disease can be of several types. There are traumatic, non-infectious and infectious arthritis. The disease can occur in a chronic or acute form. The symptoms can vary greatly.

Stages of the disease

In the acute stage, arthritis of the temporomandibular joint is manifested by severe pain. When you open your mouth, it intensifies. Movement in the joint during this period is limited. When opening the mouth, the jaw moves in the direction where the inflammatory process develops. The face may become asymmetrical. This is due to swelling due to inflammation. The skin around the joint may turn red. When pressed, the pain increases. When the acute stage passes, the disease without proper treatment passes into the chronic stage. In this case, the pain becomes less noticeable. It appears periodically, especially when opening the mouth. Joint mobility deteriorates. This is especially noticeable in the morning. When pressing on the area around the joint, the pain increases. In the chronic stage, destructive changes may appear, osteoporosis develops. Treatment of arthritis of the temporomandibular joint should be timely. The more advanced the stage, the greater the likelihood of complications.


Arthrosis of the temporomandibular joint is a very common disease. It refers to dystrophic pathologies. Osteoarthritis is the result of various injuries, inflammations, disorders of the endocrine system or metabolic processes. Muscles in the course of the appearance of certain deviations begin to adapt to them. This leads to the appearance of compression in some areas, and stretching in others. In this case, the head of the lower jaw suffers from excessive load. It is taken over by cartilage. They do not become unable to withstand the load over time. As a result, nerve endings are pinched. Bone tissues are gradually destroyed. If no measures are taken to treat the disease, the degenerative processes will be irreversible. This will result in disability, inability to open your mouth or speak. Therefore, the disease cannot be started. Arthrosis of the temporomandibular joint is accompanied by pain. This is caused by injury to nerve endings during movement. This is where circulation is interrupted. The joint does not move correctly. When the mouth is opened, the lower jaw moves to one side. Poor-quality prosthetics, loss of teeth can cause such an ailment. The jaw takes the wrong position when moving, chewing. If you need to perform prosthetics, you need to contact a trusted specialist. Otherwise, it will take time to face such a problem as arthrosis.

Symptoms of arthrosis

Treatment of arthrosis of the temporomandibular joint largely depends on the cause that provoked it, the stage of the disease and the characteristics of its course. The symptoms of this disease are similar to other types of ailments in this area. Therefore, the diagnosis should be carried out by an experienced specialist. With the development of arthrosis, a crunch appears when moving the jaw. Her movements may become difficult, constrained. This is especially noticeable after active conversation or chewing. At an early stage of the disease, clicking in the joint appears. There may be muscle pain. It extends to the ear or radiates to the area under the jaw. The sky, tongue, throat and even shoulder can hurt. When pressing on the joint, discomfort does not occur. The jaw moves in waves when opening the mouth. If you conduct a full diagnosis, it will be found that the teeth contact in different occlusions incorrectly. Also, similar pathologies occur in people who chew on one side. On palpation, muscle soreness on the loaded side of the jaw can be felt. With arthrosis of the middle and advanced stages, the temporomandibular joint hurts when moving. X-rays show changes in the shape of the head of the joint. Its flattening can be expressed more or less. The joint space will be narrowed in the picture.


Considering diseases of the temporomandibular joint, a few words should be said about such an ailment as ankylosis. When it occurs, the surfaces of the joints fuse due to fibrous or bone changes. In this case, a partial or complete loss of mobility may be observed in the joint. The cause of the development of ankylosis can be diseases in the area of ​​​​the joint of a chronic or acute form. Most often, osteomyelitis, purulent arthritis, and fractures in this area lead to such consequences. Children are more susceptible to ankylosis. At this age, the surfaces of the joint, covered with a periosteum without a cartilaginous cover, quickly grow together. In adults, fibrous ankylosis occurs more often. One of the main symptoms is persistent difficulty or lack of movement in the diseased joint. In most cases, it is determined when moving in a horizontal plane. If the ankylosis is unilateral, the face will be asymmetrical. If the disease develops on both sides, the chin will be pushed back. In the fibrous form of the disease, pain is more common. In this case, the muscles quickly get tired when chewing, it is difficult to open the mouth, especially in the morning. On X-ray, the joint space is absent in some areas. This is a characteristic symptom of the disease. In this case, the head and neck of the joint thickens.

Muscle dysfunction

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is a pathology that affects the chewing muscles. Their coordination is broken. The elements of the joint at the same time differ in mutual arrangement. Stress, metabolic disorders, as well as malocclusion or other occlusive disorders can provoke the development of pathology. Often there is asymmetry in muscle movement. The location of the heads of the lower jaw also shifts. In this case, the nerve endings in this area are injured. Over time, muscle dysfunction leads to the development of arthrosis. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction can be of two types. In the first case, the disease proceeds painlessly. In the second case, there is severe discomfort in the masticatory muscles. With this form of the disease, pain appears on one side, which lasts constantly. Its intensity may vary. The pain radiates to the ear, cheek, temple, forehead. Also, discomfort can be given to the teeth and jaw, palate and tongue, throat. In some cases, one side of the head hurts. Unpleasant sensations are aggravated by chewing. Also, when tilting the head, the pain becomes stronger. Hypothermia, emotional or physical stress also lead to soreness. Unpleasant sensations pass when taking analgesics. The disease may be accompanied by emotional disorders. There is a strong sense of anxiety, fear, nightmares may occur, or the person suffers from insomnia. Sometimes the symptoms are mild. There may be several or just one. If any abnormalities appear, you should consult a doctor.

Diagnosis of muscle dysfunction

Treatment of temporomandibular joint dysfunction is prescribed by a doctor after a comprehensive examination. He examines the patient. A survey is also conducted about associated symptoms. Examination can confirm the presence of stiffness of movement. The face also looks asymmetrical. When the dentition is compressed, a creak may appear. The doctor performs palpation. In this case, pain occurs most often. Muscles become hyperactive. Sometimes there are subluxations of the head of the jaw or its disk. In some cases, the examination reveals hypertrophy of the masticatory muscles. In the process of diagnosis, an analysis of the functional state of occlusion in the oral cavity is carried out. The position of all elements of the joint is also determined using special diagnostic methods. Based on the data obtained, the doctor prescribes a comprehensive treatment. It depends on the degree of neglect of the disease, the characteristics of its course and provoking factors.

Dislocation and subluxation

Another common pathology is dislocation and subluxation of the temporomandibular joint. Such disorders can be caused by injury or certain diseases, such as muscle dysfunction. In this case, the elements of the joint are displaced relative to each other. This condition is characterized by pain. The mouth becomes difficult to open. The head and disk change their position relative to each other. With muscle dysfunction, subluxation or dislocation is directed backwards. With functional disorders, the capsule and ligaments are stretched. Subluxations occur periodically. In this case, the mobility of the jaw at some point becomes impossible. The patient resolves this situation on his own. This condition requires prompt treatment. If a dislocation occurs, the head takes a fixed incorrect position. The mouth becomes impossible to close.


Treatment of the temporomandibular joint is prescribed by a doctor after a thorough diagnosis. The symptoms of many diseases are similar. Therefore, self-medication can be hazardous to health. Having applied to the hospital and passed the examination, the patient is prescribed complex treatment. The process includes a number of general and special actions. The first category of methods of treatment of the temporomandibular joint is the provision of rest for the patient. He should take only soft, liquid food that does not need to be chewed. Also, you can not open your mouth wide, talk a lot. In accordance with the type and characteristics of the disease, the doctor prescribes a set of medicines that have a certain mechanism of action on the pathology. If necessary, the bite is corrected, strong compression of the teeth is eliminated. Physiotherapeutic procedures are prescribed. Therapy is aimed at relieving muscle tension. In some cases, only surgery can help the patient. This is required if conservative treatment has failed. Having considered the features and types of diseases of the temporomandibular joint, we can identify the main symptoms that most often accompany this disease. Knowing them, each person with the appearance of early signs of the disease will be able to consult a doctor.

What can patients complain about with diseases of the temporomandibular joint or TMJ

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Clicking, crunching near the ear, namely in the projection of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), pain in the jaw, jamming of the jaw when opening the mouth – all these are symptoms of muscular-articular dysfunction.

To find out the cause of this dysfunction, you first need to know how the joint works.

  1. Joint capsule
  2. Articular head or condyle
  3. Articular disc
  4. Articular tubercle

Where does what come from?

Clicks are characteristic of dislocations of the articular disc, which can be anterior, posterior and lateral. The figure below shows from left to right: normal disc position, posterior dislocation, anterior dislocation. Dislocation happens with reduction and without reduction, i.e. with adjustment and without adjustment. So, with a dislocation with reduction, you can hear two clicks: the first at the moment of opening the mouth, the second at the moment of closing.

Why are joint clicks dangerous? The danger lies in the premature wear of the elements of the joint, which will lead to the development of arthritis, arthrosis and the final stage – ankylosis (complete immobility of the joint).

As for the crunch in the joint during jaw movements, this sound is more typical for arthrosis of the TMJ. It occurs as a result of friction of deformed surfaces. The outcome of arthrosis is ankylosis or complete immobility of the joint.

Pain syndrome can often accompany arthritis of the TMJ, while in the projection of the joint, i.e. in front of the tragus of the ear there is swelling, hyperemia of the skin, general malaise, fever, etc. Arthritis pain is acute. Purulent inflammation in the joint can result in complete destruction of all its elements.

Acute pain may also be accompanied by neuralgia, anterior dislocation of the articular disc, in which there is a rupture of the posterior condylar fusion and compression of the articular disc. Dull, aching pain can occur with arthrosis, chronic arthritis, and TMJ pain dysfunction syndrome (TSD).

With the development of BSD, in addition to pain in the joint area, headaches, pain and noise in the ears, muscle tension in the occipital region are also possible.

Difficulties in opening the mouth (jaw contracture) patients complain mainly with arthrosis and sometimes with BSD. Jaw jamming is a different problem and should not be confused with jaw contracture. The jamming mechanism refers to the dislocations of the articular disc, which were discussed above. Without going into details, this can be explained as follows: the articular head, under certain circumstances, does not return to its original position, because. cannot overcome, for example, the posterior pole of the disc if it was in a state of dislocation. Or we are talking about a dislocation of the lower jaw, when the articular head, with a very wide opening of the mouth, shifts forward from the articular tubercle.

Distinctive features

Complaints in diseases of the TMJ should be distinguished from many other pathological processes in this area. So next to the TMJ are: the auditory canal, parotid salivary gland, masticatory muscle, lymph nodes, and the corresponding pathological processes: otitis media, sialadenitis, myositis, lymphadenitis. In addition, pain can be due to neuralgia and inflammatory diseases in the skin and subcutaneous tissue (for example, with a boil). Separately, it is necessary to consider tumors of the parotid-masticatory region, benign and malignant.

As for the pathology of the oral cavity, in the form of difficult eruption of the wisdom tooth or complicated dental caries, the main problem they create is limited mouth opening (contracture) resulting from the transition of inflammation to the masticatory muscles. Pain in this case can also be similar, because. the propagation of impulses from the teeth goes along the branches of the trigeminal nerve, and the pain can radiate to the ear, temple.

Which doctor can help?

The dentist deals with the problem. The direction of activity can be the following: orthopedics, orthodontics or surgery; the main thing is that the doctor specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of TMJ pathology. Currently, such specialists are called gnathologists.

If my dentist is having trouble making a diagnosis?

And this can happen. It is necessary to consult with related specialists: ENT doctor, neurologist, maxillofacial surgeon. If these specialists exclude their pathology, then there is only one option left. What’s next? See previous paragraph.

What examination is required to diagnose TMJ pathology?

Based on complaints alone, unfortunately, the diagnosis cannot be made, and, accordingly, the treatment cannot be prescribed.