Lyme disease is more likely to be misdiagnosed as TMJ if you’re not aware of the different symptoms. If you only report limited symptoms to your doctor or dentist, they won’t have enough information to make a proper diagnosis. Misdiagnosis of Lyme disease is dangerous, because the longer you go without treatment for Lyme disease, the more likely you are to experience long-term nerve damage.
The common symptoms we see between Lyme disease and TMJ are:
- Jaw pain
- Neck pain
Less commonly, people can experience pain, tingling, or numbness in the arms from either condition.
However, with TMJ, people are more likely to experience:
- Tooth wear
- Ear symptoms (pain, ringing, and vertigo)
- Popping or clicking in the jaw joint
But if you have Lyme disease, you are more likely to experience:
- Erythema migrans (EM) rash
- Fever and other flu-like symptoms
- Joint pain in the lower limbs, such as knees
- Short-term memory problems
The EM rash is the classical bull’s-eye rash that can develop after a tick bite. However, the rash can take many forms. Check out this CDC gallery of EM rashes to see some of the variations.
You should definitely suspect Lyme disease if you traveled to an area where blacklegged ticks are established, or if you had a tick bite. However, you should not rule out Lyme disease just because you never saw a rash. Some people don’t notice the rash (it could have been hidden under your hair, for example), but still develop Lyme disease. Fever and other flu-like symptoms are also strongly indicative that you’ve gotten Lyme disease. If you suspect Lyme disease, there are tests available that will usually identify it.
On the other hand, you should suspect TMJ if you have had jaw trauma or a subjective sense that your teeth aren’t fitting together right.