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October 6, 2023

Could a TMJ Disorder Be Causing Your Eye Pain?

Man with significant pain in his eye

If you have been experiencing any pain around or behind your eyes, you likely want to know what the underlying cause is. You may be surprised to learn that the source of your discomfort could very well lie in your jaw. Oftentimes, eye pain is linked to a TMJ disorder; here is what you need to know about the relationship between these two conditions.

What is a TMJ Disorder?

TMJ is short for “temporomandibular joint,” which is the name for the joints that keep the lower jaw connected to your skull. When there’s a problem with your TMJs, the result is a TMJ disorder. Symptoms of this condition can vary, but it’s usually associated with jaw pain, locking of the jaw joints, earaches, and trouble chewing.

How Can a TMJ Disorder Lead to Eye Pain?

A TMJ disorder can affect the jaw’s temporalis muscles, which happen to be located close to the eyes. A problem with your TMJs can lead to tension in the temporalis muscles, and as a result, they may end up pressing on the nerves that are linked to the eyes, thus leading to significant discomfort.

On top of that, your TMJ disorder may be causing what is known as referred pain, which is a phenomenon where the brain mistakenly attributes pain to the wrong part of the body. This can sometimes happen when you’re experiencing discomfort in an unusual area. In short, your brain may think that the pain is coming from the eyes when it’s really in the jaw muscles.

How to Know If Your Jaw is Causing Your Eye Pain

Does your eye pain seem to get worse whenever you chew your food or spend a lot of time talking? If so, it could be related to a TMJ disorder. That being said, the only way to know for sure is to visit your dentist. They will be able to perform a thorough examination and determine whether an issue with your TMJ is truly to blame for your discomfort.

If you are diagnosed with a TMJ disorder, your dentist can explain what solutions are available. Dealing with the problem in your jaw should also go a long way toward putting a stop to your eye pain. Some of the treatments that might be recommended include:

  • Equilibration/Occlusal Adjustments: Equilibration is the process of slightly reshaping specific teeth in order to improve the alignment of the bite. Correcting existing bite issues can help take some of the tension off your jaw joints, thus reducing your eye and jaw pain.
  • Bite Splints: A bite splint is a small oral appliance that resembles a mouthguard and is generally meant to be worn when you go to bed. It can help guide your jaw to a more natural resting position. Doing so gives your jaw joints a chance to rest and recover, thus helping you find relief from your eye pain and other symptoms related to your TMJ disorder.
  • TENS Therapy: A TENS machine uses electrical stimulation to stop pain signals from being sent to your brain. This can help you keep your discomfort under control while the source of your TMJ disorder is being treated.

Why force yourself to live with eye pain and other side effects of a TMJ disorder when you can have the source of the problem treated? Reach out to your dentist today to see what they can do to address any issues you may be experiencing in your jaw joints.

About the Author

Dr. James Olsen graduated from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in 1988. He is currently bringing state-of-the-art, high-quality dentistry to patients in his hometown of Ann Arbor. He has been trained in neuromuscular dentistry and can offer multiple kinds of treatments for TMJ disorders. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Olsen, visit his website or call (734) 996-0200.

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