TMJ pain may occur during pregnancy as a result of hormonal changes and additional physical and emotional stress. Facial exercises and cold or hot compresses may help relieve this pain.

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You probably expected to feel some discomfort during your pregnancy, but you may not have expected your jaw to hurt. Hormonal changes and additional stress can cause TMJ pain for some people during pregnancy. This may include clicking or popping jaw sensations, difficulty eating, and headaches.

If you experience TMJ pain, your doctor may suggest facial exercises, cold compresses, and anti-inflammatory medications. Your TMJ pain can resolve when your baby is born, but it may also continue.

Learn more about TMJ disorders.

TMJ is an abbreviation for the temporomandibular joint. You have two TMJs in your body located on either side of your jaw. (If you place your fingers in front of your ears and open your mouth, you can feel them.)

Temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) are conditions that affect the TMJ and the surrounding muscles, ligaments, and nerves. There are more than 30 of these conditions that cause jaw pain and dysfunction.

Females are more likely than males to experience TMDs, but a 2023 study found that there was not a significant difference in the rate of TMDs between pregnant and non-pregnant people of childbearing age.

The exact cause of TMJ pain is not always known. It may be a combination of genetic and physical or emotional stressors. How you perceive pain may also play a role in whether you experience TMJ pain and how long it lasts.

You may experience TMJ pain during pregnancy due to the hormonal changes and increased stresses placed on the body.

If you have a TMJ disorder during pregnancy, you may experience:

  • clicking, popping, or locking of the jaw when opening your mouth
  • pain in your jaw, face, or neck
  • discomfort while chewing
  • headaches
  • tinnitus

Symptoms from a TMJ disorder may resolve without treatment. If TMJ pain is mild and does not impact daily activities, you may not need to take any action.

If symptoms persist or are debilitating, your doctor may recommend:

If you develop TMJ disorder during pregnancy, it may go away after you give birth, but there is a chance that it will continue.

It’s also important to keep in mind that even if you don’t have TMJ disorder during your pregnancy, you may experience it during your postpartum period. You also have a higher chance of this if you experience PTSD related to the pregnancy.

Finding support if you have TMJ disorder during pregnancy

If you have TMJ pain during your pregnancy, you can get support from:

  • your dentist
  • your primary care physician
  • a physical therapist
  • a pain management specialist

You may also wish to discuss your experiences with other individuals in a pregnancy support group.

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How do you treat TMJ pain when pregnant?

Ice packs, facial massage, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, and breathing exercises are some ways to reduce TMJ pain.

What does a TMJ flare up feel like?

You may feel constant or intermittent pain in your jaw, face, and neck when you have a TMJ flare up. You may feel your jaw pop or lock and have difficulty chewing. You can also experience headaches and tinnitus related to your jaw pain.

Is TMJ pain common after pregnancy?

TMJ pain can occur at any time. You may experience TMJ pain during your postpartum period as a result of shifting hormones, increased stress, and lack of sleep.

How do I relax my jaw from TMJ pain?

You may find meditation, breathing exercises, and facial massage useful in relaxing your jaw. Your doctor, dentist, or therapist may also recommend specific exercises to help relieve TMJ pain.

During pregnancy, you may experience TMJ pain. It can be constant or intermittent. If you have TMJ pain, you may also experience trouble moving your jaw, tinnitus, or headaches. Your TMJ-related pain may improve quickly or last after your pregnancy.

If you are experiencing TMJ pain, your doctor can offer referrals to dentists, physical therapists, and other specialists. Cold or hot packs, facial massage, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications may also potentially help reduce your discomfort.