5 Symptoms of TMJ in Kids You Shouldn’t Ignore

Symptoms of TMJ

Symptoms of TMJ in Children and Treatment Options

As a parent, it can be difficult to watch your child go through pain, whether it’s a boo-boo from a tumble during play or an emotional response from forgetting their favorite lovey at a friend’s house. You may have built up a couple of go-to fixes for such issues, but what if your child complains of jaw pain? How would you handle that problem? Stick around a little longer to learn all about the symptoms of jaw pain and TMJ in children and home remedies you can try at home before visiting the dentist.

What is TMJ?

The temporomandibular joints (TMJs) connect your jawbone to the temporal bones on both sides of your head. It’s because of these joints that you’re able to open and close your mouth. When the TMJs are not functioning well, your child may complain of jaw pain. Think about the number of times your little one opens their mouth to speak, chew, or even yawn. With a dysfunctional TMJ, each of these movements has the potential to aggravate the jaw and cause discomfort.


It’s unclear what causes TMJ issues, but several things can contribute to this oral health problem. Bruxism, for one, can put a lot of pressure on the joint and make TMJ disorders more likely. Your child may not even be aware they’re clenching and grinding their teeth, particularly if it happens at night. That’s why it’s important to maintain regular appointments with your dentist for pediatrics. A physical examination of your little one’s teeth can reveal evidence of teeth grinding, and you can take the necessary steps to identify the cause and come up with a treatment plan. Children with health problems like juvenile arthritis or a history of facial trauma may also be more susceptible to TMJ issues.

TMJ Symptoms in Kids

If your child has a problem with either of their TMJs, they may experience the following symptoms:

1. Clicking or Popping

When your child yawns, do you hear a popping or clicking sound? Every child experiences TMJ differently, but this is one of the most common symptoms. If you notice this with your child, it may not be something you need to worry about, but it’s important to schedule an appointment with their dentist right away to be on the safe side. 

2. Pain in the Jaw

When your child complains of a dull throbbing ache in the jaw that comes and goes throughout the day, it could be a sign of TMJ. Such discomfort would mostly manifest when your little one chews, speaks, or even yawns.

3. Restricted Jaw Movement

Apart from jaw pain, kids with TMJ may also find it difficult to open their mouths wide or close it again. Usually this happens after your child wakes up, when the joint and its surrounding muscles have gone through a period of inactivity.

4. Tired Facial Muscles

TMJ discomfort isn’t restricted to your little one’s jaw alone. Sometimes it can cause pain elsewhere in the face, like the cheeks, under the eyes, or even the forehead. If your child’s face looks saggy on one side, let your dentist know as soon as possible.

5. Muscle Spasms

Jaw muscle spasms may occur when the TMJs cause joint muscles to overstretch. Most people notice spontaneous spasms in other parts of the body, which is typically not a cause for concern. But when it happens in your little one’s jaw, they’ll experience a pulsing sensation, tightening in the muscles surrounding the TMJ, and physical hardness in that area. 

Treatment Options

Sometimes treatment can be as simple as your child resting their jaw for a couple of days. Switch your child’s diet to include soft foods that don’t require a lot of chewing and help them avoid any habits that can overstretch the jaw muscles, such as yawning too widely, chewing gum, or chewing their fingernails. Applying a cold compress on the jaw should also help numb the area and alleviate any discomfort. For some kids, however, more treatment may be needed. 

A pediatric dentist can create a custom occlusal splint to fit over your child’s teeth, allowing the TMJ to relax while also providing the teeth with protection from nighttime teeth grinding. If misaligned teeth is the reason for TMJ, starting orthodontic therapy may help alleviate your child’s discomfort. For children who experience a locked jaw, a prescription for muscle relaxers from your pediatric dentist may take care of the problem. Occasionally, a dentist may need to manipulate a locked jaw until it opens or closes.

TMJ Treatment for Kids in Nebraska

Even if you aren’t 100% sure your child’s symptoms are the result of TMJ, the best thing you can do as a parent is to continue monitoring the issues your child has with their jaw and schedule an appointment with your nearest children’s dental specialist right away. By working with a qualified team of dentists for children (like us!), you can find out the underlying cause of TMJ and develop a personalized treatment plan to meet your child’s needs. With locations in Hastings, Grand Island, North Platte, and Omaha, our pediatric dentists are here to help kids in these and surrounding Nebraska communities so they can go back to feeling like their old self again.