The jaw structure is a complex hub of various hard and soft tissues, including muscles, nerves, tendons, and ligaments. All of these tissues can suffer injuries, and it can be hard to track down the exact cause, leading to confusion in diagnosis and treatment. Ernest syndrome is an injury to a ligament in the jaw that can produce a number of symptoms similar to TMJ. However, the treatment of the two conditions is very different.

Understanding Ernest Syndrome

Ernest syndrome is caused by an injury to the stylomandibular ligament, which is a fibrous, elastic band of tissue that connects the styloid process of the temporal bone (part of the skull) to the mandible. It’s an accessory to the temporomandibular joint, helping to stabilize the joint.

This ligament can be injured by direct impact or by being stretched out because of excessive force. Like TMJ, Ernest syndrome is often caused by trauma to the jaw, car accidents, or overextension of the jaw. It may also be injured as a 

When this ligament is injured, it can cause pain over the entire region of the face nearby, many of which overlap with TMJ. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Tenderness below the earlobe 
  • Pain in the back of the jaw
  • Pain in the lower back teeth
  • Ear pain and pressure
  • Throat hurts, especially on swallowing
  • Cheek bone hurts
  • Headaches around the temple
  • Eye pain
  • Pain at the jaw joint

At first, there may be little pain, but it tends to increase and spread as Ernest syndrome develops.

Ernest Syndrome and TMJ

Although Ernest syndrome and TMJ are technically two different disorders, they are not unrelated. The stylomandibular ligament helps steady the temporomandibular joint, and when it is injured, the function of the joint is affected. If left untreated, Ernest syndrome can lead to TMJ.

If you are suffering jaw pain that may be associated with headaches, you should talk to a doctor or dentist. Whether the problem is Ernest syndrome or TMJ, the condition can be progressive, and, without treatment it can worsen and spread.

To learn whether you have Ernest syndrome or TMJ, please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment with a Columbia, SC TMJ dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry today.