We know that TMJ comes with a high level of risk for tinnitus. Some studies indicate that as much as 80% of people with TMJ report tinnitus and other ear symptoms, including earaches, ear fullness, and dizziness or vertigo.

But now a new study indicates that some types of TMJ are much more likely to be associated with tinnitus. This can help us track down the link between the conditions, and, hopefully, point us to get better treatment results.

Three Types of TMJ

For the purposes of this study, researchers divided TMJ into three subtypes, which are commonly recognized, but often overlap. These three types are myofascial pain disorder (MPD), disc displacement (DD), and degenerative joint disease (DJD).

MPD is characterized by pain in the face caused primarily by muscle dysfunction. DD occurs when the cushioning disc in the jaw joint comes out of place. DJD occurs when arthritis or other changes in the jaw joint cause damage to the joint structure.

Identifying Tinnitus Risk

The population used in this study consists of 705 patients who were seen at three different clinics. One group, 91 patients, didn’t have any type of TMJ, and they were used as controls.

Among controls, the incidence of tinnitus was only 5.5%. However, for people with TMJ, the tinnitus rate was 41%. Tinnitus was most commonly associated with MPD. In fact, 94% of patients with tinnitus had MPD. Tinnitus was most likely among those with only MPD, not other types of TMJ. About 64% of patients with MPD only had tinnitus. The risk of tinnitus increased even more when MPD was also accompanied by headaches .

People with TMJ and headaches were 6.6 times more likely to have tinnitus than controls. Those with TMJ but no headaches were only 3.7 times more likely to have tinnitus.

What Does This Mean for Your TMJ?

This study, like others, suggests that disc displacement and joint problems are less likely to cause widespread TMJ symptoms than muscle problems. In the case of tinnitus, the linkage probably relates to the ancient muscle connections between the jaw and the ear.

If this is true, then it means that treatments for TMJ-related tinnitus should focus on calming muscle activity. Fortunately, that is what neuromuscular dentistry does best. We can offer immediate relief of muscle tension with TENS. Long-term relief can be achieved with an oral appliance, which helps muscles stay in a more relaxed position.

When people are getting good relief with their oral appliance, but don’t want to continue wearing the appliance, we can talk about other treatment solutions such as reconstructive dentistry.

Are you suffering from tinnitus and have TMJ symptoms like jaw pain and headaches in Columbia, SC? If so, TMJ treatment may be able to help. To learn if it can help you, please call (803) 781-9090 today for an appointment with a TMJ dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry.