Written By Ken Marshall / Reviewed By Ray Spotts
Did you know that tooth pain results in roughly 15 million missed workdays per year and that a study found that 55 percent of adults reported experiencing a toothache within the previous six months? Toothaches are very common and may be associated with a Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. TMJ disorders also commonly cause jaw pain and some people even struggle to eat and talk.
Our mouths, jaws, and the muscles connected to them form a complex, dynamic system. This system allows us to chew and talk. Unfortunately, if the jaw is misaligned or you suffer an injury, it could result in a TMJ disorder. Improperly functioning muscles may also result in a TMJ disorder. Arthritis, teeth grinding, infections, and autoimmune diseases may also result in a TMJ disorder.
Those suffering from a TMJ disorder frequently experience jaw and/or tooth pain. Jaw pain shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. As you may have guessed, TMJ disorders center around the Temporomandibular Joint. If the joint itself is not functioning properly, it could trigger nerve endings. The attached muscles and the joint itself could also experience swelling. And when you move or use your jaw, it may produce increased pain.
Tooth Pain And TMJ Disorders
The connection to tooth pain may seem less obvious. First, if you suffered an injury to your jaw, that injury could be the cause of both your tooth pain and your TMJ disorder. In this case, the two conditions are related but separate. As such, you may have to treat them separately.
TMJ disorders can also directly cause tooth pain. A TMJ disorder can cause the muscles in the maxillofacial region to tighten. This could result in teeth grinding, or bruxism, which in turn can damage your teeth and result in pain. Likewise, if your disorder is resulting in a misaligned bite, this too could be damaging your teeth.
However, it’s also possible that your tooth pain is caused by something different, such as a cavity or infection. Let’s look at how you can tell the difference between a TMJ disorder and pain caused by a cavity/infection.
Differentiating Between An Infected Tooth And TMJ Disorders
There are some important differences between tooth pain caused by a cavity or infection and pain caused by a TMJ disorder. Usually, pain caused by an infection will be centered on one or a few specific teeth. Pain caused by a TMJ disorder, on the other hand, often spreads over larger sections of the jaw.
Still, it can be hard to tell these conditions apart. Tooth pain often radiates outwards and spreads to the jaw, for example. Likewise, it’s possible for TMJ disorder pain to be localized to one or a few teeth. However, TMJ disorders are often accompanied by pain elsewhere. Other common symptoms include:
- Headaches or pain behind the eyes
- A clicking noise when the jaw is moved
- Pain in neck and facial muscles
Fortunately, both toothaches caused by infections and TMJ disorders can be treated. However, since both conditions are the result of different underlying factors, different forms of treatment are usually needed. If your toothache is caused by a cavity, for example, it’ll likely have to be filled.
Meanwhile, treating TMJ disorders can be rather complex. That’s because the disorder itself could be caused by a wide range of underlying factors. It’s important to first identify what is causing the TMJ disorder before prescribing treatment. If the disorder is the result of a misaligned bite, custom orthotics may be needed to adjust your bite. Likewise, if the joint is inflamed, anti-inflammatory drugs may help.
Conclusion: Tooth Pain Is A Common Symptom Of A TMJ Disorder
If you’re suffering from tooth pain, it’s possible that the condition is the result of a TMJ disorder. However, the pain could also be the result of another condition. If you’re suffering from tooth pain or experiencing TMJ symptoms, you should consult with your dentist or a TMJ specialist to uncover the underlying causes and identify appropriate treatment.
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Ken Marshall is a huge fan of living the best life possible. His health is extremely important to him and he currently enjoys helping Restore TMJ & Sleep Therapy, a TMJ & OSA-focused dentistry practice, educate readers and patients about TMD, orofacial pain and sleep disordered breathing. Other interests include blogging, hiking, spending time with friends, and plenty of steak.