Can TMJ Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?

Several bones, ligaments, muscles, and nerves form the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the joint that attaches your lower jaw to your skull. This is one of the most complex joints in the human body because of the combination of movements it allows. Adding to this complexity is a disc of soft tissue between the bones that absorbs shock and can cause problems such as clicking and popping when you open your mouth. Continue reading to learn more about the question, can TMJ cause swollen lymph nodes?

If you think you may have TMJ symptoms, schedule an appointment at Trident Dental for a comprehensive oral and TMJ examination.

What Is TMJ?

TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint, which is the joint formed between the skull’s temporal bone and the mandible, the bone of the lower jaw. These two joints lie directly in front of your ears on each side of your head. However, people commonly use TMJ to describe a painful dysfunction of one or both joints. 

What Are the Common Symptoms Of TMJ?

TMJ dysfunction can include many symptoms, which may include:

  • Pain in the temporomandibular joint, face, neck, ear, or shoulders.

  • Difficulty chewing, speaking, or opening your mouth wide.

  • Jaws getting stuck open or closed.

  • Clicking, grinding, or popping noises when chewing or opening your mouth wide.

  • Tired and sore facial and jaw muscles.

  • Swelling on the side of your face.

What Are Lymph Nodes?

Although some people refer to them as glands, lymph nodes aren’t glands but are small bean-shaped structures that are part of your body’s lymphatic system. Not as well-known as other systems, such as the circulatory system, the lymphatic system is essential in filtering germs and keeping proper bodily fluid levels. Significantly, the lymph nodes supply the initial defenses that protect from microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses.

What Typically Causes Swollen Lymph Nodes?

You aren’t aware of your lymph nodes until you notice that one or more are swollen and tender, a condition called lymphadenopathy by doctors. The lymph nodes swell when they filter germs or other material moving through the fluid in your lymphatic system. Although serious medical conditions such as cancer can cause swollen lymph nodes, more common ones include:

  • Influenza and other viral infections.

  • Bacterial infections such as strep in the throat.

  • Mononucleosis.

  • Sinus infections.

  • Infected skin wounds.

Can TMJ Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?

Although infections cause most swollen lymph nodes, inflammation can also be the cause. When the tissue around a joint fills with extra fluid, it swells and can cause pain, fever, and joint stiffness. This is a condition known as joint effusion and can be caused by infection, overuse, trauma, and inflammation. 

Researchers have studied hundreds of patients with TMJ disorders and examined them for joint effusion. They found swollen lymph nodes around the parotid gland. Parotid glands are the two large salivary glands found in front of and under your ears. These glands help keep your mouth moist. The parotid lymph nodes can swell as the result of an inflamed TMJ.

You will probably notice pain and other TMJ dysfunction symptoms before swollen lymph nodes. However, TMJ disorders should always be considered when you have facial swelling.

Schedule Appointment

Contact us at Trident Dental to learn how we can help you with any questions or problems you might have about jaw pain and other symptoms of TMJ disorder such as, can TMJ cause swollen lymph nodes. We provide comprehensive dental services to aid in preventing and treating this painful condition that can damage your teeth and gums.

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