Sometimes, it’s hard to distinguish between TMJ pain and a regular toothache. Both types of pain originate in the same area of your body, and they have a lot of similarities. However, there are some key differences. Here’s what you need to know.

Cavity Versus TMJ Pain

With TMJ pain, you’re usually going to feel pain in your jaw. In contrast, tooth pain comes from a specific tooth. That said, in some cases, pain in both of these situations can radiate outward, and it can be hard to tell where the pain is originating. In particular, if you have an infected tooth you may feel throbbing that extends toward your jaw joint. To tell the difference between TMJ pain and pain from a cavity, you may need to look for other symptoms.

Signs of TMJ

If you have TMJ, you’re likely to experience several other symptoms besides the TMJ pain. That can include headaches, earaches, neck pain, and even backaches. You may notice pain when you try to use your jaw joint to eat, yawn, cough, or sneeze, and you may find that your jaw starts locking in some situations.

Signs of a Cavity

If you have a cavity, you may also experience pain when you eat, but the pain will be felt in your tooth not just in your jaw area. Additionally, with a toothache, you may see pus around that tooth, your gums may be swollen or irritated, and your neck glands may be swollen. You may also have a bad taste in your mouth or rotten odors coming from your infected tooth. Generally, with TMJ, you don’t have these symptoms.

Alleviating TMJ Pain

Although TMJ pain and cavity pain are caused by different health issues, you can alleviate your pain in similar ways. In both cases, try to give your mouth a break by minimizing eating. Keep hot and cold foods as well as sugary foods away from your cavity. To alleviate TMJ, go a step forward and focus on soft foods so that you don’t have to put as much effort into chewing. With both situations, placing a cold compress or an ice pack on the side of your face that is in pain can help. Over-the-counter painkillers can also help.

Gargling with salt water can also help cavities, but it doesn’t do anything for TMJ. Similarly, some people apply clove oil to cavities, but again, that doesn’t help with TMJ pain. If you use one of these remedies and get relief, that is another sign that you have a cavity and not TMJ.

Get Help for TMJ and Cavities

A general dentist can help you with cavities by offering a filling, but if you have extensive cavities, you may want to turn to an oral surgeon for an extraction and eventually for implants. Similarly, if you have TMJ, you may want to see an oral surgeon. They can offer you Botox injections as well as other treatment options.

If you believe you have TMJ, contact us by filling out our online form or calling your local office. At Greater Atlanta Oral and Facial Surgery, we have the experience, training, and knowledge to help you.