Whether you visit the dentist regularly or not, it’s always helpful to know the symptoms of certain conditions so if they pop up, you will know if you should visit the dentist. It’s like knowing that pain on the right side of your stomach could indicate appendicitis and that you should visit the emergency room. Although TMJ isn’t as serious as appendicitis, not getting treatment can leave you suffering from painful symptoms for longer than you need. At Elevated Smiles in Carlsbad, we want our patients to live healthy and pain-free lives. One way to ensure this for our patients is by educating them about the symptoms of TMJ and encouraging them to visit us if they recognize any.

Clicking or Popping

When you open and close your mouth, there shouldn’t be any odd noises happening. However, if you hear or feel clicking and popping in your jaw when chewing, talking, opening and closing your mouth, or yawning, this might indicate a TMJ disorder. So what’s making this noise? The cartilage disc inside your jaw joint slipping in and out of place due to TMJ disorder.

young woman suffering from clicking and popping in her jaw

Frequent Headaches and Migraines

Another common symptom to watch for in TMJ disorders is frequent headaches and migraines. If you get headaches or migraines almost daily, it’s not normal. Unfortunately, many people who suffer from frequent headaches and migraines receive misdiagnoses and treatments that don’t work. TMJ can cause several different types of headaches including migraines, tension headaches, and referred pain headaches.

When you have a TMJ disorder, it causes the muscles located next to the jaw joint to become strained. These muscles span across your entire face and go to the back of the neck. The right amount of muscle strain can result in frequent headaches and migraines.

Ear Pain, Stuffiness, Tinnitus

Another area of your body TMJ can affect is your ear. This is because the temporomandibular joint is located right next to your ears. When it dysfunctions and causes inflammation, the inflammation can impact the surrounding nerves and muscles which just so happen to run next to the ear.

People who suffer from TMJ might experience all types of ear symptoms such as clogged or muffled hearing as well as tinnitus (ringing in the ear). You might also have ear pain that often gets mistaken for an ear infection. One of the ways to distinguish an ear infection from ear pain with TMJ is whether or not you have a fever. Usually, infections are accompanied by a fever and if it’s TMJ, it is accompanied by other TMJ symptoms.

Face, Jaw, Eye, Neck, and Back Pain

The muscles located next to your jaw joint span across your jaw and face, behind your eyes, down your neck, and in your upper back. When the muscles near your jaw become strained as a result of TMJ, it can make all of these areas feel in pain. Usually, the pain is highest in the morning a while after waking up.


Has your jaw ever gotten stuck open or closed? This sensation known as lockjaw is another symptom of TMJ disorder. When the jaw joint is dysfunctional, it doesn’t open and close correctly. As the system becomes more damaged, it becomes harder to open and close. Think of it as a door. If the door is warped, you probably have to slam it shut or pull it really hard to get it open.

Eventually, the warping will become so bad that it gets stuck. The same sensation can occur to your jaw when you have TMJ. In some cases, the jaw will become so stuck that it requires medical attention to realign the jaw to move it again. If you ever experience any amount of lockjaw, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent it from getting worse or stuck open.


Another common symptom of TMJ is clenching and grinding your teeth (bruxism) while you sleep. The constant pressure of the jaws clenching together can often result in a TMJ disorder and will continue without treatment. It’s possible to have bruxism without a TMJ disorder though.

Restricted Jaw Movement

The last TMJ symptom you need to watch for is restricted jaw movement. If you find it difficult to move your jaw in all different directions like side to side or open and closed, this can indicate a TMJ disorder.

Get TMJ Treatment in Carlsbad

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above and would like to finally live a life free of pain, our TMJ dentists at Elevated Smiles can help. Drs. Saw or Luu can create a customized TMJ treatment plan to balance your jaw joints and help you reduce pain. Please schedule an appointment at our Carlsbad dental office to learn more about TMJ treatment and if it’s right for you. Call us at (760) 622-3010 to book an appointment.