Tinnitus, TMJ disorder, and bruxism

Author: EarPros Team

The interrelationship between tinnitus, TMJ disorder, and bruxism is a complex and multifaceted one, with each condition influencing and exacerbating the other. 

Can bruxism and TMJ problems cause tinnitus?

Tinnitus, the perception of ringing, buzzing, or other sounds in the ears in the absence of external stimuli, is closely linked with both TMJ disorder and bruxism. TMJ disorder, affecting the temporomandibular joint, which connects the jaw to the skull, and bruxism, the involuntary clenching or grinding of teeth, often occur concurrently with tinnitus, creating a challenging triad of conditions for both patients and healthcare professionals.

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of individuals with TMJ dysfunction experience tinnitus (Journal of Oral Rehabilitation)

Bruxism and TMJ pulsatile tinnitus symptoms

Many individuals face the challenging combination of tinnitus, TMJ disorder, and bruxism, each condition intertwining to present a complex array of symptoms. This confluence can obscure a clear diagnosis and complicate treatment strategies. Patients frequently describe a range of discomforts including:

  • Persistent ringing or buzzing in the ears indicative of tinnitus
  • Jaw pain and tenderness, often a sign of TMJ disorder
  • Headaches, which can be a common symptom associated with both conditions
  • Earaches or a feeling of fullness in the ears, potentially linked to TMJ disorder
  • Difficulty chewing or discomfort while chewing, which may arise from TMJ disorder
  • Increased tinnitus intensity following episodes of teeth grinding, a hallmark action in bruxism

The muscular strain from bruxism can lead to heightened temporomandibular joint tension, aggravating the symptoms of TMJ disorder and potentially intensifying the experience of tinnitus. This interaction creates a cycle of pain and auditory distress that can significantly impact an individual's daily life and well-being. Understanding these symptoms in unison is critical for healthcare providers when formulating an effective treatment plan.

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What does TMJ tinnitus sound like?

Tinnitus associated with TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders can manifest in various auditory sensations that are often described as clicking, popping, or grating sounds. These sounds are typically more mechanical compared to the ringing or buzzing commonly associated with other forms of tinnitus. This is because TMJ tinnitus is believed to stem from the structures around the joint itself, which can include muscles, ligaments, and bones. When these structures are stressed, strained, or misaligned, it can lead to sounds that may sync with jaw movements.

It's important to note that these sounds are subjective and can vary greatly from person to person. If you're experiencing any unusual sounds that you suspect may be related to TMJ, a consultation with a healthcare professional specializing in TMJ disorders is recommended for a proper assessment and potential treatment options.

Tinnitus caused by TMJ and bruxism treatments

Restoring jaw function is a key treatment when TMJ disorders or bruxism lead to tinnitus. Treatments targeting temporomandibular-induced tinnitus often include bite correction and physiotherapy, which research has shown to be effective in lessening both the intensity and the impact of tinnitus. Other treatment options may involve:

  • Counseling and psychotherapy: Particularly for bruxism linked to stress or anxiety.
  • Dental restorations: Using implants, prostheses, or reconstructions for missing teeth.
  • Orthodontic realignment: With traditional or clear braces for crooked teeth.
  • Jaw inflammation treatment: Such as wisdom tooth extraction to reduce inflammation.
  • Integrated therapies: Utilizing knowledge of shared pathophysiological mechanisms, focusing on stress reduction, muscle relaxation, and central nervous system modulation.
  • Customized oral appliances: Developed by dental professionals to lessen bruxism's impact on the TMJ and mitigate tinnitus symptoms.
  • Behavioral interventions: Such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and biofeedback to manage interconnected symptoms.
  • Combined pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods: Employing medications for neuropathic pain and tinnitus, alongside neuromodulation techniques, for a holistic treatment approach.

TMJ tinnitus exercises and massages

TMJ tinnitus exercises focus on alleviating the symptoms of tinnitus that arise from issues with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

These exercises aim to relax the muscles around the jaw, improve the function of the joint, and reduce the tension that can contribute to tinnitus.

Techniques often include gentle jaw stretches that help in increasing mobility, exercises to promote correct jaw alignment, and methods to relax the overall facial and jaw muscles.

For instance, slowly opening and closing the mouth to stretch the jaw, rotating the jaw in circular motions, and practicing relaxation techniques to ease muscle tension can be beneficial.

These exercises not only target the physical aspects of TMJ disorders but also address the auditory symptoms by potentially reducing the perception of ringing or buzzing sounds. 

It's crucial to approach these exercises with caution and consult a healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist or an audiologist, who can provide personalized advice and ensure the exercises are performed correctly for maximum benefit.

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How TMJ, bruxism, and ringing in ears affect sleep?

The disruptive nature of tinnitus sounds, coupled with the discomfort associated with TMJ disorder and bruxism, can significantly impair an individual's ability to attain restorative sleep, contributing to heightened fatigue and cognitive impairment.

More about nighttime tinnitus

Tinnitus, TMJ, and bruxism: how to diagnose it?

The intricate link between tinnitus, TMJ disorder, and bruxism creates a complex clinical picture with overlapping symptoms that challenge diagnosis and management. Symptoms common to TMJ disorder and bruxism, such as jaw pain and difficulty chewing, may be compounded by the stress-related aspects both share with tinnitus. This entanglement often leads to underdiagnosis due to a lack of awareness among healthcare professionals of their potential interplay. Addressing this, a comprehensive and collaborative approach among various specialists, including otolaryngologists, dentists, and audiologists, is crucial for accurate assessment and effective treatment of these intertwined conditions.

Can TMJ cause tinnitus in one ear?

Yes, TMJ can cause tinnitus in one ear. TMJ disorders affect the joint that connects the jaw to the skull, located just in front of the ear, and can lead to various symptoms, including tinnitus. When TMJ is the culprit, tinnitus might be experienced on just one side because the condition can affect one side of the jaw more than the other. The tinnitus might manifest as a clicking, ringing, or popping sound, which may be more noticeable when moving the jaw, such as while chewing or speaking. It’s essential to have both the TMJ disorder and the associated tinnitus evaluated by a healthcare professional, as targeted treatment can often provide relief from these symptoms.

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