TMJ disorder can cause intense pain in the jaw, neck, and head. If left untreated, TMJ disorders can lead to chronic pain, difficulty chewing, swelling, and in rare cases, it may lead to nerve damage.

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is a painful condition that occurs when the jaw joint is stressed and misaligned. It causes soreness in the jaw, and symptoms can spread over time to include pain in areas such as the eyes, neck, and head.

When the jaw joint is out of place, it can also put pressure on the nearby nerves. This can lead to additional symptoms, such as jaw muscle spasms and severe headaches.

Some symptoms of trigeminal nerve damage are similar to symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), but the symptoms of these two conditions are distinct. Typically, your jaw joint puts pressure on the trigeminal nerves in your face. These structures are all close together and can cause similar symptoms, such as facial pain and headaches.

Symptoms that are most likely to be caused by trigeminal nerve damage include:

  • numbness or tingling in the face or neck
  • facial pain that feels like an electric shocks
  • pain gets worse when you touch your teeth by eating, brushing your teeth, or talking
  • throbbing pain throughout the jaw or face
  • a burning sensation on one side of your face
  • muscle spasms in the jaw, face, or neck
  • severe headaches

What does nerve damage from TMJ disorder feel like?

You won’t always know that TMJ disorder has caused nerve damage. However, if you have symptoms such as numbness, muscle spasms, or pain that feels like a shock, you likely have some nerve damage.

When is TMJ disorder considered severe?

Sometimes, TMJ disorder resolves on its own without any medical treatment. It’s also possible for TMJ pain to last for months or years and to lead to symptoms that spread beyond the jaw. This form of TMJ disorder is considered chronic and is more serious than short-term TMJ pain.

Typically, the longer a person has TMJ disorder, the more severe it will become and the more symptoms they will experience.

For instance, at first, someone experiencing mild TMJ disorder might have jaw pain and a clicking or popping sensation when they open their mouth. If untreated, several months later, they might also have eye pain, neck pain, and chronic headaches.

If the TMJ disorder damages the trigeminal nerves, they could also develop sharp shocks of pain and muscle spasms.

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There are multiple treatment options available for the management of nerve pain caused by TMJ disorder. The right treatment plan for you will depend on a variety of factors, including your age, your medical history, and the severity of your symptoms.

Potential options include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs are available both by prescription and over-the-counter. Your doctor can help you find the right ones to manage your TMJ pain.
  • Nerve pain medications: Medications such as amitriptyline and gabapentin are used to treat many types of nerve pain, including nerve damage caused by TMJ disorders.
  • Antidepressants: Low-dose antidepressants are an option for TMJ and other chronic pain conditions.
  • Muscle relaxers: Muscle relaxers are short-term options that can help reduce tension in the jaw and pressure on the nerves.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help stretch and strengthen your jaw. This can help relieve the pressure on your nerves.
  • Stress management techniques or therapies: Many people hold more tension in their teeth and jaw during times of stress. Counseling and stress management techniques can sometimes help.
  • Dental splits: Dental devices, sometimes called mouthguards, can be worn at night to help keep the jaw in place. This can also relieve pressure on the nerves.
  • Dietary changes: Sometimes, eating softer foods that are easier on your jaw can help reduce symptoms.
  • Jaw surgery: There are a few different surgical options that are available if less invasive treatments haven’t worked.

Can TMJ disorder cause permanent nerve damage?

Chronic TMJ disorder can cause permanent damage to the jaw and the surrounding nerves.

This can lead to further complications, including chronic inflammation and arthritis. Treatment can help reduce the risk of permanent damage and complications.

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TMJ disorder is a painful condition that happens when repeated stress on the jaw bone leads to misalignment. Sometimes, jaw misalignment can put pressure on facial nerves, called trigeminal nerves.

This can lead to symptoms such as muscle spasms, severe headaches, and numbness in the face and jaw. Treatments, including medications, therapies, lifestyle changes, and surgery, can help manage these and other symptoms of TMJ disorder.