Is TMJ or Chronic Sinusitis Responsible for Your Symptoms?

Boutique Dentistry for Nashville, Tennessee

One of the problems with getting good treatment for TMJ is identifying it. That’s partly because many of the symptoms of TMJ are often found in other conditions, too. So ruling out possible confusion can lead you to get the right treatment to relieve your symptoms.

One of the conditions that can be difficult to distinguish from TMJ is chronic sinusitis–repeated sinus infections.

So how do you tell the difference?

man laying in bed with with jaw pain

Symptoms That Can Occur with Either Condition

One of the big difficulties in distinguishing between these conditions is that they can often present with very similar symptoms. Some of the symptoms you might see with either condition include:

  • Headaches, including migraines
  • Pressure or pain in the face, including the cheeks and eyes
  • Jaw pain
  • Toothaches not related to cavities
  • Earache or fullness
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Tinnitus
  • Sore neck

If you have these symptoms, you could be experiencing either condition. Although the mechanism is different, the results are the same. In TMJ, jaw muscles are responsible for the pressure and pain in areas ranging from your jaw to your ears to your eyes. Your sinuses run through your skull in nearly all these areas as well, so the pain you feel could be related to congestion and swelling from a sinus infection.

If you’re experiencing sinus infection jaw pain, it’s caused by pressure on the sinus cavity from the sinuses being blocked, from swelling in the area, or from the infection spreading to other areas. Ear infections are common with untreated sinus infections for that reason. If you want to know how to relieve jaw pain from a sinus infection it’s by treating the sinus infection. Once the infection clears up, the jaw pain should subside. On the other hand, if TMJ is the cause of your jaw pain, treating TMJ will relieve it.

Watch for Obvious Symptoms of Sinusitis

If you have sinusitis, you’re likely to experience some symptoms that should tip you off that this is what you’re experiencing. Some of the symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Nasal obstruction
  • Discharge from the nose that is thick and discolored
  • Changes in taste or smell
  • Facial congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Upset stomach
  • Fever

When you have mucus collecting in your nose and sinuses, it becomes hard to breathe through your nose. You may also have thick, discolored discharge coming from your nose. You’ll likely experience changes in your taste and smell. This is partly because your blocked nose makes it hard to smell. It’s also because the bacteria growing in the anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment that develops in sinuses may utilize sulfur instead of oxygen, just like bacteria infecting your teeth or gums. Then the smelly discharge can leak into your throat and mouth.

The leaking discharge can also irritate your throat and make you nauseous, especially in the morning. Don’t confuse this nausea with the kind that can come from feelings of dizziness and vertigo.

Of course, fever is a giveaway that you’re experiencing an infection.

If you do have a sinus infection, the only way to treat it is with antibiotics. With that said, we strongly encourage you to visit your physician for treatment.

More Common TMJ Symptoms

On the other hand, you should also look out for other TMJ-related symptoms. If you have these, it’s likely that you have TMJ and not chronic sinusitis.

  • Jaw sounds (popping, clicking, or grinding)
  • Soreness in the jaw joint
  • Tenderness in the muscles

It’s also important to pay attention to when you get your symptoms. If you have TMJ, you’re more likely to experience symptoms after exerting your jaw. This may be after spending a day doing a lot more (or a lot louder) talking than usual. Or perhaps after a big meal or eating tough foods. Maybe after you have a big yawn.

Not Responding to Other Sinus Treatments? Get TMJ Treatment in Nashville

One of the ways that often tells people they have TMJ is that their symptoms just don’t respond to treatment for whatever they were diagnosed with.

This is distinct from getting treatment that works, but the problem returns, which can happen with sinusitis, too.

If you have symptoms that aren’t resolving with the conventional treatment you’ve been given, expert neuromuscular dentist Dr. Kent E. White can help you track down a true diagnosis if you have TMJ. Our Nashville TMJ dentist uses advanced dental technology to precisely diagnose TMJ disorders. This information allows Dr. White to create custom treatment plans that will truly give you relief from jaw pain and other symptoms. Then, you will no longer wonder whether you have a sinus infection or TMJ.

To learn more about TMJ diagnosis and treatment in Nashville, please call (615) 383-6787 today for an appointment at the Center for Advanced Dentistry.