doctor pulling tick from patient's skinThis time of year, if you start experiencing jaw symptoms, it’s best not to jump to the conclusion that you have TMJ. Although TMJ is a common cause of jaw pain and related symptoms, and it’s often misdiagnosed by doctors, it’s not the only cause, and during the summer months especially it’s important to eliminate the important possibility that you are suffering from Lyme disease.

What Is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness. If you get a tick bite, the animal may transmit to you a bacteria that will spread through your body, causing numerous symptoms. Lyme disease can be fatal and it can result in lifelong disability. Early treatment is generally successful with a two-week course of antibiotics, but if the disease goes undetected, it may be untreatable.

How to Prevent Lyme Disease

You may be at elevated risk for Lyme disease if you have been walking in grassy or wooded areas where ticks hang out, questing for prey.

Once a tick latches on to you, it will crawl around looking for a place to burrow into your skin to drink your blood. It may take the tick several hours to find a suitable place, so taking a shower a couple hours after being out in tick-infested areas can reduce your risk. Take this opportunity to look for ticks. Remember, some ticks may be as small as poppy seeds, so do a thorough check, and don’t neglect areas like between your toes or between your legs.

If you find a tick, remove it by grasping it by the mouthparts with a pair of pointed tweezers. A tick must be attached for about 36 hours to transmit the bacteria.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease and TMJ

The reason why we’re calling attention to Lyme disease is that it shares many common symptoms with TMJ. These include:

  • Joint pain, including jaw joint pain
  • Numbness in the limbs

The most common symptoms of Lyme disease that separates it from TMJ are the bull’s eye rash that often appears around bites, and a bout of fever and other flu-like symptoms.

If you are suffering jaw pain and have been checked out for Lyme disease, you likely have TMJ. To schedule a TMJ evaluation, please contact Smile Columbia Dentistry in Columbia, SC today.