What Happens if TMJ Is Left Untreated?

Team TMJ Disorders

TMJ pain begins in the jaw, but its symptoms extend well beyond the temporomandibular joints. Unfortunately, the longer you wait to address TMJ disorder (TMD), the more likely it is that serious symptoms will develop. Dr. Golia treats TMD by first diagnosing the cause, then putting together a customized treatment plan that targets the underlying reason for your pain. When TMJ is left untreated, you may experience the following symptoms:

Chronic Jaw Pain and Joint Damage

Jaw pain may be intermittent when you first start experiencing dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint; your symptoms may only flare up in times of stress, when you’re eating chewy foods, or if you open your mouth too wide.

The TMJ suffers from wear and tear over time, leading to chronic discomfort and other related symptoms in the joint, such as jaw cracking, popping, and locking. You may experience pain in your face, neck, and shoulders as a result of dysfunction in the jaw joints.

If the bones in your TMJ have degenerated to the point that they no longer function properly, you may need surgery for your TMJ disorder. Taking a proactive approach to TMD treatment can help you avoid this.


TMJ disorder is often associated with tension headaches and migraines. In fact, headaches are one of the most prevalent symptoms of TMD. When caused by ongoing joint dysfunction and inflammation, headaches can be chronic and impact your quality of life. If you take medication for these headaches, as soon as it wears off, the pain returns because the root cause of your headaches—TMJ disorder—is never resolved. 

Compromised Oral Health

The teeth grinding and jaw clenching that often cause TMD can wear away your tooth enamel over time and leave your teeth prone to fractures. Dysfunction in the temporomandibular joints can also cause abnormal tooth wear and asymmetrical muscle growth, which can affect your facial appearance.

Hearing Problems

Patients frequently have TMD symptoms in their ears because the temporomandibular joints are so close to the ear canals. Tinnitus (ringing in the ears), which can make it difficult to sleep and focus, as well as feelings of fullness or pain in the canals, can occur if TMJ is left untreated. TMJ-related inflammation can lead to dizziness, vertigo, and unsteadiness because the body's sense of balance is located in the inner ears.

Treating TMJ Disorder

Dr. Golia takes a conservative approach to treating TMJ disorder, which means starting with self-managed care. Techniques like hot and cold therapy, physical therapy exercises, and eating a soft foods diet can often treat mild cases of TMD. If these treatments don’t help alleviate your pain, we may suggest an oral appliance to prevent teeth grinding and jaw clenching while you sleep or Physical Therapy to relax tension in the muscles surrounding the TMJ. Only as a last resort would we refer you to an oral surgeon for surgical treatment.

Learn More About TMJ Disorder

If you think you may have TMJ disorder, contact us today at 203-248-7400 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Golia.