There are many symptoms that may arise from TMJ dysfunction, which is why the condition is sometimes referred to as “The Great Impostor” by dentists and other health care professionals.
Here is a list of common symptoms:
- Persistent headaches, often times 3-10 times per week
- Popping and clicking of the joint – this means that the disc is in the wrong position and clicks back into correct position.
- Migraines – if the TMJ is in the incorrect position during jaw closing, too far into the socket, there are nerves and blood vessels that can get compressed. Since the skull is incredibly vascularized with blood vessels, the constriction of these nerves and blood vessels can be a main reasons that migraines and headaches occur.
- Blurry vision or pressure behind the eyes
- Stiff neck and back. The trigger points of craniofacial pain can often originate in the TMJ.
- Ear problems – due to the close proximity to the ear canal an improperly positioned and functioning TMJ can cause repeating ear infections, tinnitus or ringing in the ears, vertigo or lack of balance and spatial awareness, and direct ear pain.
Since the joint is encapsulated by a number of muscles including the masseter and lateral pterygoids, muscular facial pain is sometimes a symptom of TMJ dysfunction. If you have bruxism, or clenching habits (whether at night or during daytime activities), the constant working of these muscles can pull and tug on the joint and create TMJ dysfunction.
Some other TMJ symptoms to watch for are a limited range of motion and a crooked opening. A simple way to see if your range of motion is limited is by seeing if you are able to comfortably fit the width of three fingers in your mouth. If you cannot fit three fingers into your mouth – you may have facial muscular issues which may lead to TMJ dysfunction.
Deviation and Deflection
Deviation and deflection are two patterns of irregular jaw opening. An easy way to remember the difference is the ‘v’ in deviation. Deviation is when you open your mouth and it moves off the center line and moves back to center forming a sort of ‘v.’ Deflection is when your jaw moves to the side and does not come back.
If you watch yourself in the mirror and open your jaw and you find either a deviation or deflection, this is a sign that the TMJ is not functioning properly since the disc is getting stuck during opening.