One of the biggest problems with trying to self-diagnose with information from the internet is that your symptoms might overlap with several different conditions. For example, some of the ear symptoms related to TMJ are shared with oral cancer symptoms. These overlapping symptoms might also indicate an ear infection. How do you know which is which? Learn more about the different symptoms of oral cancer and TMJ, and visit your St. Louis dentist to understand if there’s anything you should worry about.

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TMJ and Oral Cancer Overlapping Symptoms

Every year, an estimated 54,010 adults in the US will be diagnosed with oral cancer. 75% will be older than 55. Approximately 10,850 people die of oral cancer every year. Catching cancer in the earliest stage possible is the best way to increase the survival rate. Unfortunately, without frequent visits to the dentist, oral cancer can often go undiagnosed. That’s why it’s not only important to visit the dentist regularly, but to pay attention to the symptoms.

Some of the most common symptoms of oral cancer are related to the jaw and the ear, and share a few similar symptoms with TMJ. For starters, one of the overlapping symptoms of TMJ and oral cancer is jaw pain. Jaw pain experienced with TMJ is caused by imbalanced jaw joints. The jaw pain from oral cancer is from cancer or a tumor. However, jaw pain might also indicate a tooth infection.

TMJ and oral cancer share several ear-related symptoms. These included clogged or a full-feeling in the ears, ear pain, or ear ringing. These symptoms can also be related to ear infections.

If you experience any of the overlapping symptoms of oral cancer and TMJ, it might be helpful to look into symptoms unique to each condition.

Symptoms of TMJ

Although oral cancer and TMJ share overlapping symptoms, there are several symptoms that are distinctive to TMJ. These include:

  • Clenching and grinding teeth
  • Facial pain
  • Difficulty or pain when chewing
  • Lockjaw
  • Clicking or popping when opening and closing the jaw
  • Frequent headaches or migraines
  • Shoulder tightness
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Vertigo
  • Head and neck muscle tension
  • Tingling in fingers
  • Teeth sensitivity to cold
  • Severely worn teeth

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Oral cancer also has a series of symptoms that don’t overlap with TMJ. These include:

  • A mouth or lip sore that doesn’t heal
  • A red or white patch inside your mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • A Lump or growth inside your mouth
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • Numbness in the chin and lower lip
  • Dramatic voice changes

Is It Oral Cancer Or TMJ?

Now that you can see the symptoms of oral cancer and TMJ side by side, it makes it a little easier to surmise whether you might have TMJ or oral cancer. Of course, the only way to find out for sure is by visiting your dentist. Most people don’t look closely at their own mouths or have the ability to see everything without a small mirror to notice anything odd.

When you visit us at Smile On Dental Studio every six months for a dental cleaning, Dr. Hill isn’t only getting rid of plaque and tartar from your teeth; he’s looking for anything out of the ordinary and for signs of TMJ. 

If Dr. Hill notices signs of TMJ, he will recommend a full TMJ diagnosis. This involves using a series of advanced dental technology. First, he will take a CBCT scan which is a digital 3D x-ray that shows your entire head and neck(,) including jaw joints, spine, and teeth. Then, he will use Electromyography to measure muscle activity and Sonography. Additionally, Dr. Hill will use Joint Vibration Analysis to listen to the joints, K7 Jaw Tracking to understand your current jaw position, and a TENS Unit to massage and relax the jaw muscles. Lastly, he will use a T-Scan Digital Bite Analyzer to understand the jaw muscles.

With all the information from your TMJ diagnosis, Dr. Hill can create a custom treatment plan for you.

Reduce Your Risk of Oral Cancer With These Precautions

Certain habits can increase your risk of oral cancer. To reduce your risk, we recommend the following precautions:

  • Quit smoking or using any type of tobacco products
  • Only drink alcohol in moderation
  • Get regular dental exams
  • Get vaccinated for HPV
  • Keep your lips out of the sun and wear lip balm with SPF

Visit Your TMJ Dentist in St. Louis

Whether you think you may have TMJ, oral cancer, or simply want to stay up to date on dental cleanings, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at Smile On Dental Studio in St. Louis. Please call (314) 678-7876 to book an appointment. Regular visits will help you catch cancer early, prevent cavities and gum disease, and get TMJ treatment as soon as it’s needed.