Can TMJ Cause Neck Pain?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is one of the most complex and used joints. Like other body joints, you likely have pain when you have a problem with your TMJ. However, with your TMJ, you can have symptoms in places that might seem unrelated. One of these is neck pain, for which most people never consider the cause to be a problem with their teeth and chewing muscles. But can TMJ also cause neck pain?

Schedule an appointment at Trident Dental for a comprehensive TMJ evaluation if you have jaw pain, difficulty opening and closing your mouth, or referred pain to your ear or neck.

The 2 Bones of the TMJ

The name of the TMJ comes from the two bones that connect and form the joint. The first part of the word is “temporo,” for the temporal bone. This bone, on both sides of your head, forms the lateral wall and base of your skull. The temporal bone is the thickest bone in your body, and within it lies the external auditory canal. Additionally, it helps protect the balance and hearing organs found in the middle and inner ear structures.

The next part of the word, “temporomandibular,” denotes the mandible or jaw bone. This is the only bone in your head that can move. This part of the U-shaped mandible that connects with the temporal bone is called the condyle. 

Features of the Temporomandibular Joint

Although the TMJ is different from other joints, such as the knee, elbow, and shoulder, all of these are examples of synovial joints. Features of synovial joints include:

  • The capacity for movement.

  • Bones that come together to form the joint that are covered in a thin layer of strong cartilage.

  • A thin layer of synovial fluid which separates the two cartilage-covered bones. This viscous fluid helps lubricate the joint.

  • A capsule made of tissue that produces the synovial fluid which surrounds the joint.

TMJ Dysfunction

Adding to the complexity of the TMJ is the attachment of your chewing muscles. The joint does not function properly when these muscles become inflamed or irritated. The possible causes of TMJ dysfunction include:

  • Arthritis.

  • Trauma.

  • Grinding or clenching your teeth.

  • Psychological or life stressors.

  • Heredity.

  • Fibromyalgia.

  • Stress or trauma to the joint’s disc.

  • Teeth that do not bite together correctly.

  • Certain connective tissue diseases.

Neck Pain and the TMJ

One of the common symptoms associated with TMJ dysfunction is neck pain. Some experts have found that almost three-quarters of people with neck pain have a TMJ disorder. Researchers have also found a significant connection between neck disability and TMJ problems, such as jaw pain.

Besides neck pain, other TMJ symptoms can include:

  • Clicking, popping, or grating joint sounds caused by the disc shifting inside the joint. 

  • Headaches, including tension or migraine headaches.

  • Earaches or tinnitus.

  • Jaw locking in an opened or closed position.

  • Limitation of mouth movements such as yawning.

  • Dizziness.

  • Sensitive or painful teeth.

  • Worn or broken teeth.

Schedule Appointment

Contact Trident Dental to learn more about how problems with your teeth and jaws can refer pain to your neck and other areas. Our dentists have conservative solutions to TMJ dysfunction, such as night guards and invisible braces.

Schedule Appointment

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