Symptoms of TMJ disorders

Posted by Dr. Phelps on Oct 12 2020, 11:06 PM

Symptoms of TMJ disorders

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a hinge-like joint that connects your lower jaw (mandible) to the base of your skull. It helps you move your jaw up and down and side to side while talking, chewing, and even yawning. But when you experience jaw pain (or related symptoms), then you might be suffering from TMJ dysfunction or TMJ disorder, two terms for the same problem, also known as TMD.

The following are signs and symptoms of TMD:

Sounds and Movement

  • Joint sounds (clicking, popping, or grinding noise) when opening and/or closing your mouth
  • Deviation of chin during function (chin moves to left or right when opening and/or closing)
  • Limited range of motion (cannot fully open, also referred to as a ‘closed lock’)

note: The above signs and symptoms may or may not be associated with pain or discomfort.


  • Pain or tenderness when moving your jaw
  • Pain in your neck and shoulders (often related to forward head posture and nerve compression)
  • Pain or numbness in your face (often related to nerve compression or muscle trigger points)
  • Pain in or around the ear
  • Toothache (could be referred pain)
  • Headaches (especially if other treatments for headaches have failed to provide relief)


  • Dizziness
  • Poor balance
  • Fatigue
  • Hearing impairment or buzzing noise in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Swelling
  • Facial asymmetry

What are the causes of TMD?

An obvious cause of TMD is trauma caused by accident (i.e., falling or hitting jaw on pavement, car accident, and face hitting dashboard, getting hit in the face with a softball).  The less obvious but more common cause of TMD is compression of the jaw joints during sleep, which is often related to airway obstruction.  The following is a common progression of TMD as a result of a breathing problem:

  • Over-activation of facial muscles during sleep (referred to as muscle parafunction: i.e., bruxism)
  • Parafunction causes excess forces in jaw joints (you can clench much harder when asleep).
  • The TMJ disk becomes damaged and cannot ‘self-repair’ as the compression forces are too great.
  • Once the disk is damaged and displaced, osteoarthritis can cause the breakdown of bone.
  • The biting forces during sleep will often also cause damage to teeth and gums.

note: You may or may not experience pain during this gradual breakdown process.

A confirmed TMD diagnosis is possible with the use of state of the art iCAT 3-D imaging, joint vibration analysis, and other diagnostic techniques that we use at Nor Cal Airway. We also evaluate the nasal and pharyngeal airways and use rhinomanometry to screen for nasal airflow limitation.  Through imaging, patient consultation, and examination, our doctors can determine the root causes of your TMD and develop the proper treatment plan for you. Schedule an appointment with us today to learn more about how we can help you heal and reach your health and wellness goals.

To schedule an appointment with Nor Cal Airway, please contact us at 408-247-9291 or enter your appointment request here. 

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    Nor Cal Airway

    2075 Forest Avenue, Suite #6, San Jose, CA 95128

    Phone: (408) 247-9291

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