Is TMJ An Early Sign Of Pregnancy?

Written & Reviewed by Dr David Chen

You don’t normally get jaw pain but your TMJ seems to be inflamed and irritated over the past few days. Could it potentially mean that you might be pregnant? After all, all sorts of funky things can happen to your body such as morning sickness or overall crabbiness. Is this one of them?

Location of TMJ on anatomy skull

Our purpose is to explore the potential for TMJ symptoms to be an early sign of pregnancy. Is it feasible or is it not? Should you use it as an indicator to check whether or not you may be carrying a child?

We’ll answer all of those questions and you’ll know what to do the next time you have jaw pain.

Can TMJ be an early sign of pregnancy?

Yes, TMJ symptoms can potentially be an early sign of pregnancy. It can be a result of subconscious teeth grinding and clenching which may be caused by stress. You may not consciously know that you’re pregnant but your body certainly does because it will undergo hormonal changes.

The drastic change in hormones can put your body through undue stress. You may start abusing or overworking your jaw muscles in the middle of the night via teeth grinding or clenching. That in turn can cause you TMJ pain when you wake up in the morning since the TMJ muscles are worn out by the time the sun comes up.

masseter muscle

To make matters worse, women are typically twice as likely to have TMD when compared to men. According to the NIH, roughly 5-12% of the population suffer from TMJ disorders.

Therefore the answer is yes, pregnant women can develop TMD. This study proves that it is possible.

In fact, this study actually found that 50% of women in the second and third trimester had symptoms of TMD. The first trimester only had about 28.1% with TMJ symptoms. These numbers are certainly higher than the ones given by the NIH but the point that we want to make is that expecting mothers certainly can and do develop this condition.

Basically it is not exclusive to non-pregnant women because you can get it regardless of your child carrying status!

Is it 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 condition and if you are experiencing it, you should consult with a dentist about it. They will certainly be able to help you treat that but what they can’t do is tell you if you’re pregnant. For pregnancy questions, you should check with your OBGYN.

Basically, what we’re trying to say is you should look for some other signs to determine whether or not 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

If there is any solace, if you do develop TMJ due to stress from being pregnant, the symptoms should improve over the course of pregnancy. 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.

Your temporomandibular joint is no exception so it will benefit from the increased levels of relaxin. 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.

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 an early sign of pregnancy but it is not a reliable 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.

Video summary recap

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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