Many people think that temporomandibular joint dysfunctions (TMJ or TMD) can be identified by a popping or clicking jaw joint. Although popping or clicking joints are common in TMJ, this is not the only symptom of the condition. If you have multiple TMJ symptoms, don’t rule TMJ out just because a popping or clicking jaw isn’t one of them.

Man in a fluffy robe massages his jaw due to pain

Many Types of TMJ

TMJ isn’t a single condition. It’s actually a label that’s been given to several closely related conditions. We don’t have consistent labels for the subtypes. We don’t even know how several of them function and how they cause the symptoms that they do. However, the two most common types (which can overlap) involve the jaw muscles and the jaw joint.

Muscle-based TMJ is the most common type. In this type, the symptoms are caused by jaw muscles that are overexerted and sore. This can be caused by stress, an imbalanced bite, overworked jaw muscles, and other causes. The result is jaw pain, facial pain, neck pain, headaches, and other symptoms related to the high muscle tension.

The second most common type of TMJ is related to disc displacement The temporomandibular joint is made up of two bones, the jaw (or mandible), and the temporal bone of the skull. Between these two bones is a cushioning disc of cartilage, like you find in most joints. When this disc gets out of place, the two bones grind against each other, with just the ligament caught between the bones. As you open and close the jaw, the disc can slip in and out of place, which is what causes the popping and clicking. It can also cause an irregular jaw motion and limited jaw opening. If left untreated, this type of TMJ can lead to locked jaw.

Another common type of TMJ occurs when the disc actually degenerates, which can cause several of the symptoms of TMJ, but without the popping and clicking.

Watch for Many TMJ Symptoms

Many people are too focused on the joint sounds related to TMJ. However, the most common type of TMJ isn’t actually associated with joint sounds. If you want to really track down the true cause of your symptoms, it’s important to be aware of all the symptoms of TMJ. Here are some of the more common symptoms of TMJ:

  • Jaw pain
  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Tooth wear
  • Tinnitus
  • Ear aches
  • Ear fullness
  • Vertigo or dizziness
  • Tingling or numbness in the fingers
  • Back pain

If you have one or more of these symptoms, it’s important to consider that TMJ might be to blame.

Tinnitus and related symptoms are especially common. Perhaps 80% of people with TMJ experience one or more ear-related symptom. And some studies suggest that TMJ might be responsible for more than 90% of tinnitus cases! So, instead of popping joints, maybe ringing ears should be the characteristic symptom to watch for.

You should also suspect TMJ if you have sleep apnea, as the conditions often occur together.

Let Us Diagnose Your TMJ

With TMJ, it’s important that you don’t try to self-diagnose your condition on the basis of your symptoms. The condition has too many different types for you to really get a good idea what’s going on just by looking at symptoms.

TMJ dentist Dr. Jeffrey S. Haddad has the training and equipment to get a scientific diagnosis that can put you on the path to proper treatment and relief.

If you are in the Detroit area, please call (248) 480-0085 today for an appointment at the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness in Rochester Hills.