TMJ & Tinnitus: What’s the Link?

TMJ is a painful condition that can disrupt your daily life and lead to other difficulties. Some cases of TMJ cause symptoms that might seem unrelated to your teeth and jaws. One of these is a condition known as tinnitus. However, some studies reveal increasing evidence of a link between TMJ and tinnitus.

If you have jaw pain and tinnitus, schedule an appointment at Trident Dental for a comprehensive TMJ evaluation.

What Is TMJ?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a hinge-type joint located in front of each ear. It is a complex joint made up of a fibrous disc, muscles, bones, ligaments, and nerves that allow it to make complex movements. Since it connects your lower jaw to your skull, a healthy TMJ is needed for actions such as speaking, eating, breathing, and swallowing. 

It is common to use TMJ to refer to dysfunction or disorder of the TMJ. There are many possible symptoms associated with TMJ dysfunction, such as:

  • Jaw noises, such as popping and clicking, when moving the jaw.

  • Jaw locking opened or closed.

  • Loss of range of jaw motion.

  • Headaches.

  • Pain or ringing in the ears.

  • Pain in the neck, shoulder, or upper back.

  • Difficulty eating.

  • Jaw pain.

  • Problems with how teeth fit together when biting.

It is often difficult to identify the cause of TMJ. However, several factors may play a significant role, such as:

  • Trauma to the jaw.

  • Grinding or clenching the teeth excessively.

  • Arthritis.

  • Medical conditions, such as fibromyalgia or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

Although most cases of TMJ resolve in a short period without extensive treatment, chronic TMJ can affect your quality of life and lead to problems, such as:

  • Prematurely worn teeth.

  • Sleep deprivation.

  • Anxiety and depression.

  • Migraine headaches.

  • Chronic facial pain.

What Is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a common ear condition that affects more than 50 million adults in the United States. It is usually described as a “ringing in the ears.” However, the sounds that tinnitus can cause include buzzing, humming, hissing, or whistling. The sounds can be occasional or constant and can vary in intensity. Most people consider tinnitus an annoyance, but for others it influences their quality of life.

How Does TMJ Affect Tinnitus?

TMJ and tinnitus can be complex conditions. It is usually challenging to identify the cause or causes of both problems. However, there are some apparent overlapping factors, according to some studies. One of the prominent contributors to TMJ and tinnitus is stress. It also seems possible that TMJ may cause tinnitus. Although this is uncertain, theories have been proposed about why this may be true. Three of these theories include the:

  • Proximity of chewing muscles to muscles that attach in the middle ear.

  • Connection in the brain between the same nerves to the TMJ and the nerves involved with hearing and processing sounds.

  • Jaw ligaments that connect with hearing bones in the middle ear.

Dentists receive training in diagnosing and treating TMJ. Although other healthcare professionals may be needed as part of a team to treat TMJ, in most cases, it is preferred to start with your dentist.

Schedule Appointment

Contact Trident Dental to learn more about how we can help you resolve your TMJ symptoms. We have a full range of dental services to treat and help prevent oral problems such as tooth decay, gum disease, halitosis, and TMJ.

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