TMJ Pain can Mimic Root Canal Pain

Did you know that temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain can mimic root canal pain? You have a TMJ on each side of your jawbone, which act as hinges that connect your jaw to your skull.  Your TMJ work together when you chew, speak or swallow by controlling the lower jaw as it moves forward, backward and side to side.  Like most parts of your body, sometimes your TMJ can become inflamed and cause pain.  I often see these patients in my endodontic practice, because TMJ pain can mimic root canal pain with common symptoms of a dull ache in your jaw, headaches and radiating pain.

It is important to have an endodontist evaluate your need for a root canal.  Sometimes, you may simultaneously have root canal pain and TMJ pain. If so, a root canal will be included in your treatment plan.  Other times, your endodontist will diagnose your TMJ pain by palpating your facial muscles and can direct you to another health care provider for proper treatment.

Chiropractors Treat TMJ Pain

Chiropractor - TMJ Pain Mimicing Root Canal Pain

It is well known that chiropractors adjust spines, but did you know that they can treat other parts of your body including your jaw? Your jaw is a moving, working joint which can become misaligned and cause you pain. Your chiropractor will adjust your TMJ to help relieve your jaw pain!

Understanding TMJ Pain

Your TMJ is one of the most complex joints in your body. There is a temporomandibular joint on each side of your jaw which is cushioned by a disc, just as the joints in your spine are cushioned. The joint or the disc can cause inflammatory pain if you suffer from:

  • Lengthy dental work
  • Teeth grinding
  • Trauma
  • Stress
  • Poor posture of the head

These conditions can cause the disc to become entrapped either behind or in front of the hinge of the joint in your jaw. This can cause a clicking sensation that you can hear and feel when you open and close your mouth.

Do You Need a Chiropractic Jaw Adjustment?

The goal of chiropractic treatment is to realign your jaw and the adjustment method will vary depending on your specific condition and which direction the disc in the jaw may have slipped. An adjustment performed by your chiropractor will help restore normal function and will likely make you feel better all over since it will be reducing the tension in the joint and will releasing the muscles. Your chiropractor may also suggest additional therapies including massage, neck adjustment and heat/cold therapies.  Your chiropractor may also refer you to your dentist for a night guard if you grind your teeth.

Jaw Pain - TMJ Pain Mimicing Root Canal Pain

There are many symptoms that may indicate that you suffer from TMJ pain.  Symptoms may include:

  • Jaw Pain or tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Inability to open or close the mouth completely
  • Grinding sound during jaw movement
  • Neck pain
  • Tinnitus
  • Locking open or closed of the jaw
  • Jaw deviation to one side when you open or close it
  • Muscle weakness in the jaw
  • Teeth grinding, especially at night

Additional Therapy Options Your Chiropractor May Recommend

You have treatment options when it comes to TMJ pain.  The best decisions for your care will depend on important factors like the cause, duration and characteristics of your pain. Your treatment may require the coordination of multiple health specialties.

Dental Mouth Guard

There are many different options that your dentist will consider when fitting a device to treat your TMJ pain.  It is very important to have a professional assessment since a poorly fitted device may cause additional TMJ damage and pain.


Education and counseling can help you understand the behaviors and other factors that contribute to aggravating your pain, so you can avoid them. Frustration tendencies like biting fingernails, teeth clenching and grinding or leaning on your chin can aggravate your condition.


An acupuncture specialist can treat your chronic TMJ pain by inserting specialized needles in specific locations in the body.


Pain relievers, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants are sometimes used for a few days or weeks to help relieve temporary pain caused by TMJ Disorders


Experts agree that the best way to treat TMJ disorders is with minimally invasive procedures, avoiding surgery whenever possible.  However, if your condition is caused by a physical malformation, surgery may be required.