Head or Neck Pain? It Could Be TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Disorders)
Temporomandibular Joint Disorders. That’s a mouthful! TMJ often causes severe pain and discomfort. It can be temporary or last many years. TMJ might affect one or both sides of your face. It could be caused by an injury to your jaw, the joint, or the muscles of your head and neck — like from a heavy blow or whiplash. Other causes include:
- Grinding or clenching your teeth, which puts a lot of pressure on the joint
- Movement of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket of the joint
- Arthritis in the joint
- Stress, which can cause you to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench the teeth
Common symptoms include:
- Pain or tenderness in your face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide
- Problems when you try to open your mouth wide
- Jaws that get “stuck” or “lock” in the open- or closed-mouth position
- Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when you open or close your mouth or chew. This may or may not be painful.
- A tired feeling in your face
- Trouble chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite — as if the upper and lower teeth are not fitting together properly
- Swelling on the side of your face
Depending on the results of an exam and your specific symptoms, treatments might include:
- Exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles.
- Medications prescribed by your dentist; for example, muscle relaxants, analgesics, anti-anxiety drugs or anti-inflammatory medications.
- A night guard or bite plate to decrease clenching or grinding of teeth.
Dr. Silverman on the Upper West Side is an oral medicine specialist. A thorough examination can determine if perhaps this is the cause of your head or neck pain. New patients always welcome.