woman holding her jaw in pain while sitting on the couch

The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is perhaps best known for being a pain in the neck – literally. That’s because not only is the joint that connects the skull to the jawbone among the more problematic in the human body, but one of its side effects is head and neck pain (among many others). While not as much is known about TMJ disorder when compared to periodontal disease, for instance, we do know that there are certain factors that make TMJ pain and discomfort more likely. This post will look at some of these illnesses and conditions.

Illnesses and Disorders that Make TMJ Pain More Likely

Connective Tissue Disease

Connective tissue disease is defined as abnormalities in the tissue, bone, and cartilage, and can increase the likelihood of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. Because symptoms of TMJ disorder can be like those of connective tissue disease, it can make diagnosing and treating a challenge. However, proper management of both conditions can help improve quality of life and reduce pain and discomfort.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that mainly affects the joints. It is caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the body's own tissues, leading to inflammation, pain, and damage. Although rheumatoid arthritis primarily affects the hands, wrists, and feet, it can also affect other joints, including the temporomandibular joint.

Research suggests that rheumatoid arthritis may make TMJ problems more likely. A study found that TMJ involvement was present in up to 80% of rheumatoid arthritis patients. Another study published in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation found that patients with rheumatoid arthritis had significantly higher rates of TMJ pain and dysfunction compared to healthy individuals.


Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, and tenderness in the muscles and other soft tissues of the body. According to research, there does appear to be a link between fibromyalgia and TMJ disorders.

It's important to note that not all patients with fibromyalgia will develop TMJ disorders, and not all patients with TMJ disorders have fibromyalgia. The exact relationship between these two conditions is still not fully understood, and more research is needed to determine the underlying mechanisms.

The Link Between TMJ Pain and Certain Conditions

The common theme between the three conditions is that they involve things like bones, joints, and chronic pain. Being that the TMJ is a joint, it’s easy to see why rheumatoid arthritis can also lead to TMJ pain and discomfort. Connective tissue disease involves bones, which could also impact the skull and jawbone – the two structures that the TMJ joint connects – and fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that can also impact the face, hence where TMJ pain comes in.

However, it’s worth noting that TMJ is usually a side effect of the three symptoms noted in this post, so eliminating or treating the condition would also likely eliminate or minimize any TMJ pain or discomfort associated with it.

It’s also worth noting that there is a myriad of other more dental-related conditions that TMJ disorder is often associated with. For instance, those with significant over or under bites, those with misaligned teeth and those who grind their teeth have been found more likely to experience TMJ pain, and there’s no question that this is easier to treat if there’s some sort of an idea as to what’s causing it. If there isn’t, treatment can become much more of a guessing game where everything from home remedies to over-the-counter pain killers are tried to relieve pain and discomfort.

For more information about TMJ disorder, and some of the other conditions that can contribute to development of the condition, contact Kanehl Dental today.