TMJ disorder, or TMD, is when the temporomandibular joint (jaw joint), teeth, and facial muscles are out of alignment. When alignment is off, this causes strain on the muscles and pressure on the nerves near your jaw. TMJ causes many painful symptoms like facial pain, headaches, jaw clicking or popping, teeth grinding (bruxism), limited jaw mobility, and even locked jaw. However, there are some little-known symptoms that TMJ disorder can present that you may not know. Knowing these symptoms can help you get the treatment you need to go back to living your life free of TMJ pain. 

Numbness in the Fingers and Arms

If you have TMJ or suspect that you do, you probably are familiar with the jaw and head symptoms, like pain. But less known is the numbness and tingling that TMJ can cause in your arms and fingers. You may get slight tingling that goes away quickly, but you shouldn’t dismiss it without further investigation. 

Your temporomandibular joints live on each side of your head in front of your ears. They connect your mandible (lower jaw) to your skull. One of our body’s largest nerves, the trigeminal nerve, runs through your temporomandibular joint. When the jaw joint is out of balance, it can pinch and cause pressure on the trigeminal nerve. This pressure can send numbness and tingling to other parts of your body, such as your arms and fingers. Slight numbness might not bother you, but it’s possible to experience nerve damage over time.

Consider the tingling and numbness in your arms and fingers in conjunction with other symptoms such as headaches, jaw pain, and worn teeth. Tingling alone may not entice you to see your TMJ dentist, but the concoction of these symptoms is a different story. 

Neck and Shoulder Pain

Jaw pain makes sense. Neck and shoulder pain from TMJ disorder isn’t as straightforward. We usually think of our body parts as different. When we have back pain, it must be a muscle pulled in our back; when we have knee pain, we must have injured our knee. However, the body works as an interconnected whole. All our bones, muscles, tendons, and nerves are connected. Thinking about your body in this way may make it easier to understand why TMJ can cause neck and shoulder pain. The muscles surrounding your jaw joints connect to the muscles in your neck, which play a significant role in keeping the alignment of your spine. Your neck muscles also connect to the muscles in your shoulders. The more severe the TMJ, the further away you’ll feel the pain.

When your jaw is out of alignment, the muscles you use to chew have to work overtime—fighting harder to close and open your mouth. When they become tired, pain can stretch down your neck and shoulders. 

Think about your other symptoms when determining if your neck and shoulder pain are related to TMJ. Do you have jaw and head pain, too?