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TMJ is Not An Early Sign Of Pregnancy

TMJ symptoms is NOT a reliable early sign of pregnancy because a missed period is the most accurate. Although pregnancy may cause you to grind and clench your teeth more but that usually happens later on.


TMJ location on anatomy skull

Table of Contents:


TMJ may occur during pregnancy

A lot of expecting mothers are under high stress while they're pregnant and this may lead to increased teeth grinding and clenching. The massive changes that your body is going through can put you under a lot of physical and emotional stress.


A lot of people de-stress by grinding and clenching in the middle of the night subconsciously. Unfortunately this will overuse and overwork all of the TMJ muscles which is why you may wake up with a sore jaw in the morning.


TMJ masseter muscle
TMJ masseter muscle

Studies have shown that women are twice as likely to have TMD while they are pregnant when compared to men. According to the NIH, roughly 5-12% of the population suffer from TMJ disorders.


TMD prevalence while pregnant:

  • 50% of women in the second and third trimester had symptoms of TMD.

  • Only 28.1% had symptoms in the first trimester.


It's NOT a reliable sign for being pregnant

Unfortunately, developing TMJ pain is NOT a reliable indicator as an early sign for being pregnant. According to the NHS, the most reliable early sign of pregnancy would be a missed period or a very light one.


Actionable point:

  • If you're having TMJ symptoms, do not do a pregnancy test.

  • If you missed your period then you should do a pregnancy test.


TMD is a relatively common and if you are experiencing it, you should consult with a dentist. They will certainly be able to help you treat it but what they can't do is tell you if you're pregnant. For pregnancy questions, you should consult with your OBGYN.


What we're trying to say is you should look for some other signs to determine whether you're pregnant rather than basing it off of pain from your temporomandibular joint!


Other common signs of pregnancy

According to the NHS, these are all signs of pregnancy:

  • Morning sickness. It can make you feel nauseous and vomiting. It starts around 4-6 weeks.

  • Feeling tired. Especially in the first 12 weeks, you may feel crabbiness and fatigue.

  • Sore breasts. The breast can start enlarging. They'll also feel tender or sore.

  • Frequent urination. Feeling the need to pee more especially in the middle of the night.

  • Altered taste. Certain foods may taste different to you.

  • Sensitive smell. Heightened sense of smell. Smelling things you never smelled before.

  • Food cravings. You may develop a craving towards certain foods and it can change throughout the entire pregnancy.


Just wanted to point out that having pain in your temporomandibular joint is not on that list. You know what else is not on that list? A toothache.


TMJ should improve during pregnancy

TMJ symptoms should improve and not worsen over the course of your pregnancy.


dysfunctional tmj

Studies have shown that women who are pregnant do have elevated levels of the hormone relaxin, which loosens up your joints in preparation for giving birth. This hormone can loosen up and relax your temporomandibular joint which may help alleviate some of the pressure.


However, you should be aware that the hormones don't increase to their peak immediately from getting pregnant. It gradually ramps up as the weeks and months go by. This is why we say it should get better over the course of it and not immediately.


What that means is that your TMD is probably at its worst during the beginning few weeks of the first trimester. Once the hormone levels start to rise, you should experience a decrease in the symptoms and find some relief!


Despite the tiredness, frequent urination, and morning sickness at least one good thing comes out of being pregnant right? Pregnancy doesn't worsen your TMJ pain. Well that is of course in addition to bringing a beautiful human being onto this planet!


The Verdict - Is TMD an early sign?

In summary, having TMJ pain can potentially be asign of pregnancy but it is not a reliable early indicator. There isn't a strong correlation between having TMD and being pregnant. Some expecting mothers develop problems with their jaw joint but not all of them do. This also includes any tooth pain in case you wanted to use toothache as an early sign.


For that reason alone, we would have to recommend against doing a pregnancy test every time you experience pain with your jaw! If your TMJ is hurting you, you should see a dentist and maybe they can help you relieve some of the trigger points.


However, if you happen to miss your period, you should probably see your OBGYN since that is a much more reliable sign of you possibly being pregnant.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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