Ask your dentist this question

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Many questions may arise that you want to ask your dentist during your scheduled appointment.

Other than actual tooth (dental) questions, this 1 concern that is typically inquired about in a dental office:

  1. What can I do for Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) pain?

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TMJ pain (known better now as Temporomandibular joint disorder or TMD) are thought to be disorders of the joint (arthrogenous) or the masticatory muscular system (myogenous) that result in pain and/or dysfunction of the jaw and mouth.

They do not include disease or infection of the teeth or mouth, but are considered the most common non-odontogenic pain complaints from individuals seeking medical care.

Symptoms of TMJ pain are thought to be a result of imbalance imparted on the joint in daily life.

TMJ symptoms can be:

  • aching in the muscles of mastication (myalgia)

  • pain with chewing

  • limitation or interference with mouth opening or closing

  • catching or locking of the jaw

  • joint sounds

  • joint pain (in and around the ear, head, neck, face, postural muscles, and cervical spine)

The TMJ disorder is considered multifaceted with numerous causes. No clear etiological cause is known but there are risk factors. The point of this post is to briefly discuss the correlation of neck pain and TMJ.

Masticatory muscles and neck muscles have a close functional connection. There is a biomechanical link between the craniomandibular region and cervical spine suggesting that postural deviations within the upper cervical spine are contributory to TMJ pain. Painful disorders within the craniofacial region may thus be attributed to dysfunction of the TMJ or cervical spine with both regions sharing common referral patterns.

It has been found that:

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  • The prevalence of troublesome neck pain was 47.4% in subjects with concomitant TMJ symptoms versus 28.6% in subjects without neck pain (Ciancaglini et al 1999)

  • The prevalence of neck pain is more common in women, if you have face pain, jaw tightness or overall fatigue.

There is a coordinated interplay and functional relationship between the TMJ and cervical spine during movement.

Knowledge of cervical disorders should be an integral part of a dentist’s practice in the management of temporomandibular and sleep disorders.

Therefore, if you are having TMJ pain (TMD), ask your dentist if he or she feels treatment of the cervical spine from someone knowledgable in treatment of TMJ pain is right for you.


Harrison Vaughan is a physical therapist and co-owner of PhysioFit of North Carolina. He provides physical therapy assessment and treatment of TMJ pain in Wake Forest, NC. He utilizes patient education, ergonomic changes, cervical spine strengthening and/or mobility training, and local TMJ manual therapy procedures to help you.

If you are having pain, contact your dentist to see if you are a right candidate for PT services by PhysioFit of North Carolina. Feel free to contact us below too for direct care.