Most people are familiar with the common symptoms of temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
disorders. These symptoms include jaw pain, muscle tension in the jaw, neck, shoulders, or
back, headaches, and clicking and popping noises when moving the jaw.
However, since the temporomandibular joint is so close to the trigeminal nerve—which is the
largest cranial nerve in the human body—problems with this joint can cause unusual symptoms
in rare cases. What are two unexpected symptoms of TMJ disorders?
Finger Tingling or Numbness
Since one of the jaw’s important jobs is helping to actually keep the neck upright, a jaw
misalignment can throw off the position of the neck. How is this associated with finger tingling
When the jaw isn’t aligned, the neck will tilt to compensate. This tilt can put pressure on the
nerves that are close to the neck vertebrae. Some of these nerves are responsible for giving
sensation to the fingers. Therefore, even mild pressure on these nerves can lead to finger
tingling and numbness.
It’s important to note that typically only one hand is affected and in most cases, the symptoms
are intermittent. If both sets of fingers are tingling and the numbness or tingling is constant, it’s
likely the TMJ is not at fault and you should seek additional medical advice.
It’s surprising, but problems with your vision can be related to the TMJ. The trigeminal nerve
has three branches, one of which—the ophthalmic branch—carries nerve signals from the eyes
to the brain. Since the TMJ can cause tension in the muscles and surrounding tissues,
sometimes, this tension can affect the trigeminal nerve.
If the ophthalmic branch of the trigeminal nerve is affected, patients with TMJ disorder may
experience blurred vision, watery eyes, sensitivity to light, or may feel a pressure behind the
eyes. If these symptoms are being experienced without any other TMJ related symptoms, an
ophthalmologist should be consulted.
However, if these symptoms are being experienced in conjunction with TMJ symptoms such as
jaw muscle tension, clicking and popping of the jaw when opening or closing, or even
headaches, it might be time to schedule an appointment with your dentist to see if your jaw is
What Should You Do?
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it might be wise to first schedule a consultation with
your doctor. If no immediate cause is found, follow up with your dentist, especially if you’re
having other symptoms related to TMJ disorders. Your dentist can examine your bite to
determine if an incorrect bite or undue pressure on your temporomandibular joint is causing
your finger numbness or visual disturbances!