Facial Pain

TMJ can cause facial pain

facial-pain-beverly-maWhat is your TMJ and how can it cause facial pain? Your temperomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint formed when a knobby projection of your lower jaw bone fits into a shallow basin at the base of your temporal bone, forming the joint that allows you to open and close your mouth.

You can feel your TMJ if you place your index finger about 2 cm in front of the attachment of your earlobe at the side or your face and clench and unclench your jaw. Place one finger from each hand in front of your ear on each side of your face. When you repeatedly clench the muscles of your jaw, you will feel your TMJ.

Many of us are aware that a misaligned TMJ can give us headaches. How can you tell if your TMJ is misaligned? Place your index finger on each side in your ear and widely open and close your jaw. If you hear nothing when you open and close your jaw, your TMJ is properly aligned, but if you hear a cracking sound, your TMJ is misaligned and you need to tell your dentist, particularly if you are having headaches.

Can the TMJ also cause facial pain?

Yes. We all know that our brain is located within our skull, but not all of us know that the brain sends out 12 pairs of “cranial nerves,” one nerve of each pair to each side of the face. These nerves send and receive signals from different regions of your face and neck, such as your eyes, cheek, tongue and throat.

Cranial nerve number seven (CN VII) is your Facial Nerve and it leaves your skull from a tiny opening in the base of your skull located very near to the TMJ. It then sends branches to the muscles of your face that allow you to make different facial expressions, such as frowning, smiling and laughing. It also sends signals to the glands that form tears, your salivary glands and regions of your nose, roof of your mouth and tongue.

Since the Facial Nerve also carries inward bound sensory information back to the brain, the facial nerve (CN VII) can carry pain signals, information about taste, and information about the position of your tongue and jaw back to the brain.

page-images-facial-painThe classic example of pain associated with the Facial Nerve is Bell’s palsy, in which infection by the Herpes Simplex virus causes inflammation of the Facial Nerve, which may lead to drooping eyelids, sagging jaw, loss of the sensation of taste and constant formation of tears on the affected side of the face. This may be accompanied by terrible pain if something even lightly touches your face.

Since the Facial Nerve (CN VII) leaves the skull so near to the TMJ, problems with misalignment of the TMJ can lead to symptoms such as a terrible toothache, an earache or just general facial pain on one or both sides of the face. A TMJ dentist can help to diagnose your tmj facial pain and take steps to correct the problem.

Treat the cause, not the symptoms

Dr. Polan is a TMJ dentist in Beverly, Massachusetts, who specializes in dental procedures for a variety of conditions. Dr. Polan and his staff provide a warm, caring atmosphere in which you can feel comfortable and safe while being treated.  He has successfully treated many patients who experience facial pain due to TMJ problems.

Residents of the Boston area should contact Dr. Ben Polan, for their dental needs as well as for evaluation of special problems such as obstructive sleep apnea and facial nerve pain.