TMJ  (also referred to as TMD) is a joint disorder that involves the temporomandibular joint. This sliding joint connects the lower jaw with your skull at a point right in front of each ear. Even when the causes of TMJ are managed, a TMJ flare up after dental work is a fairly common occurrence. If this happens to you, here’s what you need to know about treatments that work and how long a TMJ flare-up might last.

Why do I get a TMJ flare up after dental work?

Jaw pain after dental work can be common for people who are diagnosed with TMJ. While there are some factors that predispose a person to develop this disorder, the three main causes of TMJ include injury or trauma, deterioration due to arthritis, and erosion in the joint or the disc that cushions it.

TMJ flare-ups are hard to miss. Common TMJ symptoms include:

  • Pain in the jaw joint itself
  • Warmth and swelling in the face
  • Headache (including migraine)
  • Tenderness in the jaw
  • Difficulty eating, chewing, or opening the mouth
  • Locked jaw (inability to open the mouth or move the jaw at all)
  • Clicking or ticking sound in the joint when chewing
  • Decreased mobility in the jaw
  • Grating noise (or feeling) in the joint
  • Toothaches
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Hearing problems

Patients may also experience ear pain after dental work.

So why do patients experience TMJ flare up after dental work? Often it is the position of the jaw, especially when it comes to dental procedures that take a long time.

If you have TMJ and are scheduled to undergo dental surgery or another lengthy dental procedure, there is a chance that having your jaw open for an extended period of time will cause TMJ pain.

Another major cause of TMJ flare up after dental work is stress because one of the major causes of TMJ itself is stress. Stress can cause patients to clench their jaw unconsciously and grind their teeth. This is referred to as bruxism.

Especially for patients who experience anxiety when going to the dentist, the stress that causes bruxism can be a major cause of a TMJ flare up.

How long do TMJ flare-ups last?

TMJ flare-ups that are being treated can last anywhere from a couple days to several weeks.

In cases where the cause is not known or readily apparent, flare-ups may be more common and may be harder to treat. You can learn more in our earlier post on this subject.

How long does it take TMJ flare-up to go away after dental work?

There is no easy answer to this question. Every patient with TMJ is differe