TMJ can be painful, but it is not the only cause of pain associated with the workings of your mouth and can be easily confused for other illnesses (such as sinusitis) without knowing what to look for. It is important to go to a physician or a TMJ dentist to find out the source of your pain specifically, but I would like to address another condition that can be confused for TMJ, painful salivary glands.

Show Me the Saliva

man holding his jaw in pain

There are three paired salivary glands in your mouth that responsible for producing saliva: the parotid, submandibular, and sublingual glands. The most common source of painful salivary glands is blockage. The condition called sialolithiasis occurs when calcium builds up in the glands and in turn blocks them. Common symptoms of sialolithiasis include a painful lump under the tongue as well as increased pain when eating.

Sialolithiasis can lead to an infection called sialadenitis where staph or strep bacteria infect the blocked gland. The symptoms for sialadenitis differ a bit from sialolithiasis and include a lump that appears in your cheek or under your chin, strong or foul smelling pus drainage in your mouth, and fever. It is also important to mention that viruses (such as the flu virus or mumps) can infect the glands as well.

How TMJ Differs

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) occurs when a misaligned jaw interferes with other systems of your upper body such as your neck, shoulders, and head. TMJ is marked by a wide variety of symptoms such as painful chewing, neck and facial pains, as well as migraine headaches.

While TMJ does share some similar symptoms with painful salivary glands, such as pain that occurs when eating, there are a few areas where the symptoms differ. Pain associated with salivary glands generally occurs specifically around the mouth where these glands are located such as under the chin and around the cheeks. Pain specific to TMJ can occur anywhere the trigeminal nerve travels, which includes most of the face and head. It can also be anywhere the muscles pair with jaw muscles to work, such as the head, neck, and even shoulders or back. When the salivary glands are infected there is usually a discharge of pus in the mouth which does not occur when TMJ is the culprit.

If you have severe jaw pain, whether it is TMJ or salivary glands, it is important that you seek professional care. Spokane neuromuscular dentist Dr. Collins has been trained to help alleviate TMJ and is more than willing to lend a hand to help you with your condition. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment please call Collins Dentistry and Aesthetics in Spokane at (509) 532-1111,