How Do You Know

How Do You Know If You Have TMJ Disorder or Something Else?


Your temporomandibular joint, TMJ for short, is located on either side of your face. This is the joint that attaches the bottom jaw to your skull and allows it to move easily when eating, talking, laughing, and so forth. 

For some, the TMJ never gets much attention. For others, TMJ disorder can cause varying levels of pain and discomfort. 

If you have been feeling pain or tension in these joints, you may find yourself wondering whether you have TMJ disorder or something else. Here’s how you can tell the difference. 

The Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

TMJ disorder comes with many different symptoms that impact more than just the area of the joint. Some of the most common signs include: 

  • Pain in the jaw — near the ears or in other areas of the face or neck
  • Painful chewing
  • Jaw stiffness
  • A grinding, clicking, or popping noise when the mouth opens and closes
  • A bite that feels off
  • Locking of the jaw

There are a few additional symptoms that may seem completely unrelated to the TMJ but could indicate a disorder, such as: 

  • Dizziness or feeling off balance
  • Headaches
  • Earaches
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Tingling or numbness in the fingers
  • Neck pain
  • Upper back pain

Someone with TMJ disorder may have one, a few, or all of the above symptoms. Or, they may have none at all. This is why it is always so important to visit the dentist for a professional diagnosis and treatment plan. 

Other Conditions that Mimic TMJ Disorder

All of the above symptoms can easily lead medical professionals to diagnose TMJ disorder as another condition, including sinus issues, tension headaches, and nerve dysfunction.  

Chronic sinus pain, for example, can feel a lot like TMJ disorder — especially when it comes to the facial pain it causes. Because it can be caused by allergies and does not require a fever or mucous discharge makes it even more likely to be mistaken. 

Migraines or tension headaches can also mimic TMJ disorder. After all, headaches are a common symptom. Continually having these headaches where they are located due to the joint, can look like just a bad headache.

The trigeminal nerves are located on either side of the face, just like your TMJ. These nerves control your jaw. When they are not functioning properly, you may feel pain in the face, teeth, and ears. You may also experience numbness and tingling. This will usually only be on one side of the face — not both — and is often described as a sharp, shocking pain. 

TMJ Disorder Diagnosis and Treatment in San Francisco

The best way to ensure you are getting the proper TMJ disorder diagnosis and the best treatment is to visit a TMJ specialist. 

At San Francisco Dental Wellness, Dr. Chui specializes in uncovering and treating TMJ disorders, offering patients the relief they have been seeking. In fact, as the clinical director at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, Dr. Chui provides effective treatment to veterans suffering from complex TMJ disorders.

Ready to find relief? Contact us today at 415-781-1944. Or, request an appointment online. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Will TMJ go away on its own? 

It depends. Mild cases of TMJ pain go away on their own without professional treatment. However, this won’t always happen with more severe cases. Often, the pain returns at a later time. 

When should I see a dentist for TMJ?

If you are experiencing any symptoms of TMJ disorder or suspect that you may be suffering from it, make an appointment with your dentist. Addressing the issues early on can prevent the worsening of the condition.