Can a TMJ Disorder Make Your Teeth Hurt?

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Can a TMJ Disorder Make Your Teeth Hurt?

TMJ disorders can cause a myriad of uncomfortable problems, including frequent headaches, jaw stiffness, neck pain, earaches, and even tooth pain. However, experiencing tooth and jaw pain at the same time could also be a sign of tooth decay. In this blog post, we explain how TMJ disorders affect your teeth, and when you should see a dentist about TMJ pain. 

How Can a TMJ Disorder Cause Tooth Pain?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the lower jaw to the skull—it’s what enables you to open and close your mouth. Because of its location, pain from TMJ can radiate to your teeth. You may also feel the pain in your neck or ear, or experience headaches. 

While TMJ disorders can develop for many reasons—arthritis, an injury to the jaw, a misaligned bite, or even chewing gum too often—one of the most common causes is bruxism. Also known as teeth grinding, bruxism places tremendous pressure on your jaw. This can cause both tooth and jaw pain, as well as flattened teeth and tooth fractures. 

Can a Toothache Cause Jaw Pain?

Just like jaw pain can radiate to your teeth, dental problems can also cause TMJ pain. When a tooth is severely weakened, bacteria can reach the sensitive pulp deep inside the tooth. This can lead to an infection and severe pain that may radiate to your jaw, making it feel like you have a TMJ disorder. 

Malocclusions (misaligned teeth) can also cause tooth pain because of an unbalanced bite. This imbalance also places extra strain on the jaw, which can cause TMJ pain. If left untreated, malocclusions can lead to a long-term TMJ disorder.

How to Know If It’s a TMJ Disorder or a Dental Problem

If a TMJ disorder is making your teeth hurt, you might also experience the following symptoms:

  • Jaw weakness
  • Frequent headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Earaches
  • Jaw stiffness or locked jaw
  • Clicking or popping sounds when moving your jaw
  • Tinnitus

If your tooth pain is from a cavity or another dental issue, you might notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Pain localized to a single tooth
  • Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
  • Pus around the base of a tooth
  • Visible chips or cracks in a tooth
  • Pain when biting down

How to Relieve TMJ and Tooth Pain

Whether it’s caused by a cavity or TMJ disorder, tooth pain should never be ignored. You should consult your dentist right away if you’re experiencing any type of tooth pain. If your discomfort is caused by an infection, the pain will only get worse and could even lead to tooth loss. 

Until you go to your appointment, you may find some relief from a toothache with the following remedies:

  • Rinse your mouth with a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 8 ounces of warm water
  • Apply hot or cold compresses to the affected area
  • Use a warm peppermint tea bag to numb the pain

If your tooth pain is caused by a TMJ disorder, gently massaging the jaw can help soothe your discomfort. If you suffer from bruxism, relieving stress with exercise and meditation as well as wearing a nightguard can prevent the condition, relieving both TMJ pain and tooth pain.

Never Ignore a Toothache!

Tooth pain can have a wide variety of causes beyond TMJ disorders, and should always be treated immediately. At Dr. Saba and Associates, we can determine the cause of your discomfort and provide the appropriate treatment. We help adults in Sun Lakes find relief from all kinds of dental pain. If you’re in pain, please don’t hesitate to call us to request an urgent appointment.


Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (12/18/2023). Photo by Rad Cyrus on Unsplash