Temporomandibular joint disorders (called TMD or TMJ) are notoriously hard to diagnose. Many people with TMD go years seeking a diagnosis of their condition, often receiving three or four misdiagnoses before accurately identifying the true cause of their suffering. Some misdiagnoses are common because of overlapping symptoms.
Of course, another significant problem with TMD is that it rarely exists in isolation. Most people with TMD experience multiple conditions that complicate their treatment and increase their suffering. These chronic overlapping pain conditions (COPC) are best treated with an interdisciplinary team including a dentist.
At Firouzian Dentistry, Columbus, OH neuromuscular dentist Dr. Mike Firouzian can help patients get an accurate diagnosis and effective, nonsurgical treatment for their condition. Please call (614) 848-5001 today for an appointment.
Because of shared symptoms, TMD is commonly misdiagnosed as other conditions. Some of the more common misdiagnoses we see include:
- Meniere’s disease
- Sinus infection
- Ernest syndrome
- Ganglion cyst
- Trigeminal neuralgia
- Lyme disease
All of these are real conditions that need to be properly diagnosed and treated, but if you’re not responding to recommended treatments, you might be misdiagnosed.
Meniere’s disease is an ear disorder that often triggers vertigo, tinnitus, ear fullness, and hearing loss. TMD can also cause these symptoms, but is distinct with the addition of jaw-related symptoms, facial pain, and headaches.
It might seem incredible, but sometimes doctors misdiagnose TMD-related facial pain as sinusitis. In fact, some people think they have recurring sinus infections, when what they’re actually experiencing is periodic TMD flare ups.
This is an injury to one of the ligaments near the temporomandibular joint. Ernest syndrome is very similar to TMD, but it tends to be more temporary and less recurrent. It takes detailed measurements to differentiate the two conditions.
Ganglion cysts are fluid-filled lumps near your joints. These usually occur on your hands or feet, but they can appear on your jaw joints, too. These mostly cause jaw pain, and can be distinguished by finding the cyst, which ranges from pea-sized to an inch in diameter.
Trigeminal neuralgia is when branches of the trigeminal nerve send pain signals to the brain. The pain is severe, sharp, and typically caused by any touch to the face outside the mouth. It can also cause pain with jaw motion. Treatments for trigeminal neuralgia can be serious and may have complications, so it’s important to get a second opinion whenever you get this diagnosis. Facial pain with an uncertain cause is often lumped into this category, but careful diagnosis can distinguish them.
Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that affects your joints, including the jaw joints. Columbus is in a relatively low-risk area for Lyme disease, but if you travelled to the Eastern Seaboard, Wisconsin, or Minnesota, your risk is higher. People who get Lyme disease often develop the characteristic “bullseye” rash, but it’s easy to miss that, depending on the location of the bite. More helpful is the onset of fever-like symptoms, which come with Lyme disease. Lyme disease also tends to affect more than just the jaw joint.